England sees all lockdown restrictions lifted today, in a move that has been dubbed “Freedom Day”.
Boris Johnson has pressed ahead with plans to move the country into Step 4 – the end of legal lockdown curbs. This means the last remaining businesses still closed will open for the first time since March 2020. Meanwhile, the legal requirement to wear facemasks has been lifted.
But these plans have been marred by rising infection rates – there were 316,691 new cases last week, up 43% on the previous seven days.
International scientists have labelled the decision to lift restrictions as “foolish”, claiming it will result in large numbers of hospitalisations and deaths, and increase the chances of vaccine-resistant variants of COVID-19 emerging.
Meanwhile, a survey revealed on Thursday that two thirds of people in Britain think at least some coronavirus restrictions should stay in place after today.
So how do registered care managers feel about lockdown restrictions ending? And how might ‘Freedom Day’ affect their staff and those who they support?
HCI asked members of our Registered Managers’ Think Tank to share their thoughts.
Claire Jackson, Good Oaks Home Care (Poole)
“I am not in favour of restrictions being lifted. With cases of the Delta variant rising daily I don’t think we are in a position to lift the restrictions yet. As a company, Good Oaks will still be continuing with the Covid procedures we currently have in place, such as wearing additional PPE and weekly testing. Our clients and carers are important to us and we want to do everything we can to protect them and keep them safe.
“I am concerned about the impact that lifting restrictions may have on both our carers and clients, as I feel other people will quickly forget the seriousness of the virus, putting more vulnerable people at risk. I worry that cases may increase after the summer and I feel another winter lockdown would be detrimental to people’s mental health. I feel we should be making smaller steps based on the data and the research available to us.”
Gemma Bristow, Radfield Home Care (Wakefield and Dewsbury)
“I feel we are all ready to step back into some normality after such a long period of time with restrictions, which have not been easy for any of our people at Radfield Home Care. But the risk is still out there, and my main concern is the increase of people being in contact with confirmed cases. This has a huge impact on our workforce, which in turn has an impact on the people we support. We have already seen an increase with this, which has massively put us all under pressure as a team. We hope the easing of restrictions will encourage people to look into a career in the care sector, as we have found recruitment to be very slow over the last few months.”
Hannah Morgan, The Good Care Group (England)
“We fully appreciate that every one of our carers and clients feel differently about the lifting of restrictions and are sympathetic to every view point. As we continue to navigate the ‘new world’ in which we are operating, we remain focused on balancing risk management with personal choice. We are committed to remaining abreast of any new advice or guidance, ensuring we work with the best interests of our clients and carers in all our decision making.
“I am cautious about the relaxation of PPE use in live-in care settings, especially given our care team are hopefully going to be able to experience more freedom in their time off. For this reason, we have adopted a more cautious approach to wearing PPE in placement following handovers, with a view to continue to maintain our very low infection rates. We are fortunate not to have had many cases of Covid across the entire pandemic so do not want to become complacent as we know that this will increase the risk to clients and colleagues. At TGCG are working closely with each placement to establish an updated personalised risk assessment based on their needs and preference in light of the restrictions easing.
“We continue to encourage our care team to wear masks as much as possible when on and off shift, and on public transport, as we know how effective this is in protecting them and in turn our clients.
“It will be great for our clients to be able to enjoy more freedom, given they have not been able to spend as much time with loved ones, or enjoying their hobbies in the community having been shielding for so long. Many of our clients live far from family members, meaning they have missed out on that crucial interaction.
“We will continue to monitor the impact of the easing of restrictions and will adopt our approach accordingly to best support our clients and care team.”
Helen Garland, Right at Home (Bournemouth and Poole)
“We’re all looking forward to restrictions being relaxed, but already I have felt it necessary to emphasise to my very professional – but in some cases tired – team that they need to continue to be rigorous in their infection control measures as restrictions are eased.
“The easing of restrictions will probably be like the vaccine: everyone will have their own opinion on it, but they will have to understand their opinion may not be in line with the procedures we will continue to follow.
“I can’t see us stopping the wearing of masks, for example, in clients’ homes any time soon. Even if government direction changes to say they aren’t required, I suspect there will be a lot of clients who request it continues and plenty of carers who may want to carry on wearing them. I am in favour of restrictions being eased, but I think carers have to accept that their working practices have likely been changed forever.
“The sometimes positive impact of restrictions and stricter infection control, such as the drop in flu deaths, ought to be borne in mind as policies are formulated for the future.”
Karen Rides, Bluebird Care (Camden and Hampstead)
“We at Bluebird Care Camden & Hampstead will continue to wear masks and full PPE throughout our visits. We have spoken with our care team and found most staff who use London transport are in favour of continuing to wear masks. We will continue as we have been the last 15 Months.
“We are all feeling nervous about the easing of lockdown restrictions as we can see numbers rising in Covid infections, We have reassured our customers and families that nothing changes for us in Bluebird Care Camden & Hampstead and we continue to test weekly and keep pushing for vaccines. We have a 92% fully vaccinated staff.
“We have found when speaking to our customers and families they are extremely nervous about the easing of restrictions. When we informed them about how Bluebird Care Camden & Hampstead will operate they felt less anxious and very happy. We will keep our staff and customers updated as guidelines change.”
Oona Corke, PillarCare
“Like everyone else, the prospect of Covid restrictions easing and life returning to normal is something we want to see. But the lifting of restrictions also brings a new set of concerns, particularly as new cases of the Delta variant continue to rise. Understandably, our service users remain cautious and look to us to continue to take actions to safeguard against the spread of the virus as much as we are able to. In addition to remaining priority for the vaccination programme, all of our care team will continue to test weekly, use the NHS Test and Trace service and wear masks when in the community.
“We will continue to follow all government Covid-safeguarding guidelines and be responsive to these are they develop. We have found that increased communications with our carers, helping them to work through any concerns they may have and ensuring that they remain aware of changes to our internal Covid protection policies, as well as national guidelines, is at the heart of keeping our workforce and service users as safe as possible.”
Robert Stephenson-Padron, Penrose Care
“Until we see the risk of COVID-19 transmission as low risk, Penrose Care will maintain our existing infection control measures. Our infection control measures have been very effective to date, as we have had zero COVID-19 cases among our users of services during the pandemic.
“We are concerned that the relaxing of masks and social distancing rules while cases are still rising rapidly may be counter-productive and put our staff and clients at greater risks when out in public.”