The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Visits to homes for the elderly to be allowed from next Monday under specific conditions

Karl Azzopardi Friday, 22 May 2020, 12:12 Last update: about 7 days ago

Visits to elderly people's homes will be allowed once again starting from next Monday but there are strict social distancing and hygiene regulations that need to be followed, Minister for the Family, Children's Rights and Social Solidarity Michael Falzon said today.

Such visits have been on a temporary ban since 12 March in order to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to the highly vulnerable residents. Only people recommended by the nursing officer, or a doctor, or the head of the home in exceptional cases will be allowed in from Monday. This order applied for all government, church and private elderly homes, as well as St Vincent de Paul.

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During a press briefing on Friday morning, Falzon, alongside Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing and Persons with Disability Silvio Parnis, revealed that this ban will be lifted.

“I am proud to say that we have not had deaths in homes and today we have come to a point where we can relax some visit restrictions; something that the elderly as well as their relatives have been waiting for a long time,” Parnis said.

However, in order to keep up this lack of death in elderly home, there are a number of protocols that visitors have to follow.

Parnis explained that interactions can only take place with a Perspex cover separating the elderly from their relatives and the visit cannot last any longer than 15 minutes. 

Additionally, the ministry has limited the maximum of people that can be present at the same time to 4 people.

Parnis emphasised that the risk of transmission will be higher if the homes get crowded. Looking at St Vincent de Paul, he explained that there are around 1,100 elderly at present, so it would be too dangerous to have visitors come in all at once.

In order to regulate the flow of visitors inside the home, a shuttle service is being offered to relatives who wish to see their elderly and they need to call 2 days before to book an appointment.

Temperature scans will also take place before entering the facility and masks must be worn at all times.

Special accommodations have also been made for bed-ridden individuals so that they can still get a chance to interact with their loved ones.

Flazon confirmed that all these measures do not only apply to St Vincent de Paul but every other home as well.

He said that the decision to ban visits was not an easy one to take as it negatively affected a number of people including himself and Parnis. However, it needed to be done for the best interest of their elderly.

He warned that the crisis is not completely over yet so everyone must be cautious and appealed for cooperation; “it was not easy to not see our elderly for 8 to 9 weeks but let us keep their best interest in mind and follow these protocols.”

Asked if they think it is too dangerous to reopen homes for visits considering the r-factor has gone above 1 once again, Falzon said that these decisions were made after consultation with the health authorities.

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