Care homes and theatres say there is 'light at end end of tunnel' amid reopening road map plans

CARE homes and entertainment venues said there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ following prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on the country’s road map out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the government’s four phased easing of restrictions, care home residents will be allowed a single visitor from March 8, with that person required to take a lateral flow test and wear personal protective equipment.

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Reacting to the news, David Sheppard, director of Blue Water Care Home, in Kingston Road, Fratton, said: ‘It is a step in the right direction. I expect it is a bigger boost for relatives than residents who have their needs taken care of.

Residents and staff of Blue Water Care Home, Kingston Road, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘It could be an issue if residents’ nominated person is ill as they wouldn’t be able to have anyone else then.’

He added: ‘We already have Zoom, Skype and window visits so relatives have been able to see their loved ones. There still won’t be touching and until all residents have had both vaccine doses there will still be restrictions.

‘We look forward to when there are no restrictions and when people feel safe. That is the most important thing. Relatives need to feel safe too and don’t want to be the architect of their loved ones’ downfall.

‘We will carry on testing and having PPE and carrying out thorough regular cleaning which has made sure we are Covid free.’

Maria Bungaroo, owner of Braemar Care Home in Southsea, which has also not had any Covid cases, said: ‘It’s very welcome news. All residents have had the first vaccine dose but if I could choose I would feel more confident of visitors after they’ve had the second dose.

‘It will be lovely to have people visiting again but the vaccine is the key. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

‘It will be a big enterprise managing visits. We will be able to have one visitor in the morning and one in afternoon with a member of staff to supervise and do tests.

‘Those visiting will be asked if they have been vaccinated and do a questionnaire.’

She added: ‘Residents who understood about the announcement were quite excited about it. The difficulty will be choosing a person - that will be left to the relatives to decide.’

Under the relaxation of restrictions, entertainment venues will be able to open from May 17.

Paul Woolf, CEO of Kings Theatre, Southsea, said it was ‘good news’ but wants to ‘see the details’.

‘Overall it is good news. It takes time to produce shows and we rely on others to help us do this so if we were able to open in May then it may not be until the autumn until we are ready as there is a big lead time - something the government hasn’t latched onto,’ he said.

‘It’s good theatres got a mention as we’ve not been mentioned before, which bothered me greatly.

‘I still have concerns if something happens, especially if schools suddenly have to close again because teachers are not vaccinated and the whole road map disappears.’

Road map stages

In the first phase, all pupils in England’s schools will return to class from March 8, with wider use of face masks and testing in secondaries.

Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted from that date.

Care home residents will be allowed a single visitor, with visitors required to take a lateral flow test and wear personal protective equipment.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

From April 12 shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will reopen.

From May 17, two households or groups of up to six people will be allowed to mix indoors and crowds of up to 10,000 in the largest venues will be allowed at performances and sporting events.

Friends and family could finally be allowed to hug each other again, with the road map promising that advice on social distancing will be updated ‘as soon as possible’ and no later than step three.

From June 21 at the earliest, all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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