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Updated public health measures, which came into effect on Monday, February 28, could be a source of concern for some older people, vulnerable adults and healthcare patients, the national charity, Sage Advocacy has warned.

From February 28 face masks will no longer be mandatory and new guidelines will come into effect regarding close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases. ( For more see: gov.ie - Public health measures coming into place on 28 February (www.gov.ie) )

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director, Sage Advocacy, said as the public health restrictions relax there will be some people who could be anxious about returning to their pre-pandemic way of life.

Ms Lennon said: “We know from our advocacy work with older people, vulnerable adults and healthcare patients, that many people for example are feeling anxious about the removal of mandatory mask wearing.

“It is very important that as we get used to the next phase of living with Covid-19 that we remember some people are more concerned than others about the return to a more ‘normal’ everyday life.

“We also know that the pandemic has adversely impacted older people and that some older people have concerns about going shopping or to indoor venues like pubs and restaurants or using public transport as they previously would have done. We need to give people the time and space to adjust to doing the things they enjoyed pre-pandemic.

“We must all respect the fact that some people will continue to wear masks – not just in healthcare environments or on public transport - but elsewhere and this is their personal choice.

“Many of the people that Sage Advocacy supports do not want to be rushed into changing their behaviours until they are comfortable to do so and have indicated that they will continue to wear masks because they would feel uncomfortable in some settings without them. We need to give people the space to make their own choices and in turn we all have to respect their choices.”

Sage Advocacy said it is also important that everyone benefits from the updated public health measures which come into effect on February 28.

Ms Lennon said: “We are very aware that despite the current HSE/HPSC guidance on visiting nursing homes and updated infection prevention and control guidance for nursing homes that some providers are restricting visiting.

“We know from our advocacy work that while many nursing homes are following the guidance on visiting some nursing home providers have introduced restrictions on visiting and this is causing considerable distress and upset to residents and their loved ones.

“We know from our work that meaningful, safe visits are hugely important to the well-being and mental health of both nursing home residents and their loved ones and that without visits and the connection to loved ones that residents have really suffered throughout the pandemic.

“It is crucially important that nursing home providers continue to manage the ongoing risk of infection from Covid-19 while protecting and respecting the rights of residents to maintain meaningful relationships with people who are important to them.”

Sage Advocacy said the latest HSE guidelines specifically outline that if a nursing home resident has Covid-19 a nominated support person continues to have access to the resident – as long as they are made aware of and accept the associated risk.

Ms Lennon said: “No one under-estimates the risks posed by Covid-19, and this is very evident in the latest weekly report from the HSE/HPSC which detailed 320 outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes for week 7.

““But everyone who lives in a nursing home has the right to have or refuse visitors and to leave a nursing home, we cannot have one rule for the rest of society and leave nursing home residents behind, everyone must benefit from the easing of public health restrictions.”

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