Some Welsh care homes may still require people visiting relatives or friends to wear masks – depending on the level of risk to residents.
That was the message from Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 social care providers, after the Welsh Government revealed they were lifting all remaining Covid restrictions.
Chief executive Mary Wimbury said there was still “nervousness” in the sector because they were looking after extremely vulnerable people whose health and wellbeing was paramount.
The Welsh Government said the public health situation had continued to improve over the last few weeks.
Until now Wales was the last part of the UK with Covid restrictions still in place but
the Welsh Government said the public health situation had continued to improve over the last few weeks.
However, guidance will remain in place strongly recommending the use of face coverings in health settings to help protect the most vulnerable.
Ms Wimbury said: “I think the lifting of restrictions is a step back to the normality that everyone wants.
“There’s going to be a mixture of emotions. There will be delight for people who are going to be able to see people’s smiles again in care homes in a way they haven’t been able to for over two years but there’s also going to be a level of nervousness.
“It’s impossible to overestimate the trauma that people in the sector have gone through so it is going to have to be risk assessed in each setting, depending on people’s vulnerabilities and how you manage it.
“I was talking to a domiciliary care provider who was saying that sometimes you are going into people’s homes where there are a lot of people coming in and out not wearing masks and it’s going to be great for staff not to have to, through the summer particularly.
“There are other people you’re visiting where they are very vulnerable and they are isolating and not seeing anyone and they are going to want you to still wear a mask.
“It’s always been about finding the right balance. We understand why the restrictions have continued because of the vulnerabilities of people living in care settings.
“Everyone’s an individual so those vulnerabilities vary but if you’re going into someone’s own home, that’s their choice.
“If you’re going into somewhere that is the home of a number of people, then you have to balance those risks to everybody.
“That’s why we have had different requirements for seeing care home residents in their rooms as opposed to a communal area during the last period.
“My understanding is that the guidance is going to give us a steer on risk assessments and it is going to be for each provider to risk assess.
“It may be there will be different requirements in different areas of the home.
“What we can say across the piece is that this is an opportunity to move back towards normality but to do that safely.”