Care Homes left 'extremely vulnerable' by scrapping of compulsory Covid masks

The owner of a North East care home was warned that her residents are in an "extremely vulnerable situation" where Covid infections could surge because the government is lifting the mandatory use of masks on Monday.

On 19 July, dubbed 'Freedom Day', most of the Covid lockdown restrictions will be lifted, including the legal enforcement of mask wearing indoors, in shops and on public transport.

Owner of West Farm Care Home in Newcastle, which lost 12 residents within a fortnight in November to the coronavirus, Lucy Craig, said she feels let down by the government.

She said: "Unless I can maintain Lateral Flow Testing, there is nothing else left for me now other than to open my doors and that increases the risk of Covid coming through the front door stratospherically and it leaves us in an extremely vulnerable situation and quite frankly once again we just haven’t been considered or thought about.

"Never once has anything been said that’s put us first and that’s actually genuinely thought about the risk to the lives of the most vulnerable people".

Her concerns were echoed by members of the British Medical Association, who called the easing of all restrictions "irresponsible" and said they have “potentially devastating consequences."

Dr George Rae, whose practice is based in Whitley Bay, said: "I think that’s a very perilous thing to do, because we all know the infection rate is rising and we all know the infection rate in the North East of England is the highest, indeed, in England, so I think it’s definitely premature.

"I think it’s irresponsible to take absolutely all of the restrictions off and I do not think that it’s a big ask to say that in certain conditions, indoor conditions, wear a mask". 

Face masks Credit: ITV News

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said “we expect and recommend” that people continue to wear face coverings in “crowded and enclosed spaces… such as on public transport”.The PM said postponing the easing of restrictions into the autumn would risk reopening at a time when schools are back from their summer holidays and people are spending more time indoors as the weather turns cold.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said there was no "perfect time" to reopen but added this was the "right time" for the easing of restrictions.

He told ITV News the government was taking a "cautious approach" and had been "building the vaccine wall in order to have those defences in place".