Covid: Warnings care homes could be 'overwhelmed' by Omicron without visiting restrictions

A social care leader in Wales is calling for a tightening of Covid restrictions for visiting care homes in the run-up to Christmas after fears they could be "overwhelmed" by the Omicron variant.

Mario Kreft, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said additional measures would save lives and he is urging the Welsh Government to step up the programme of booster jabs for care workers. 

Care home visiting rules in England have already been tightened with just three visitors and one essential care worker allowed for each resident

It means families could be forced to choose who is allowed to visit loved ones over Christmas.

Mr Kreft said: “Our first and overwhelming priority is to ensure the vulnerable people for whom we provide care and our wonderful workforce are kept safe.

“We are calling on the Welsh Government to look at the rules. We want to keep homes open safely but we need to do that in a very measured and responsible way.

“We have a new enemy in the Omicron variant which is spreading at a scarily rapid rate with the number of infections doubling every two days.

“It is possible we may need to close down for a week or a fortnight so I think the advice would be to get to see your loved ones as early as possible because we just don’t know where this virus is going.

“It would be absurd for me to pretend that everything is going to be fine. Over the next few weeks we could be overwhelmed by this virus."

Mr Kreft continued: “The people working at the front line have been heroic. They’re worn out, they’re jaded but they are doing the best they can to keep people safe.

“We want to see that everything that can possibly be done to make sure that the booster is rolled out right across the country, especially to those who are caring for the vulnerable.

“What we now have to do is work with our partners in government and local health boards to ensure that people working on the front line get those jabs as soon as possible.

“We are encouraging our colleagues in the health service  to ensure we can get our staff jabbed

“A very high percentage of residents are fully vaccinated and some care homes are reporting that 100 per cent of their residents have had all three jabs.

“It is now imperative that we ensure any remaining residents and staff who have not been triple jabbed are vaccinated very soon."

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the Welsh Government would issue new guidance on care home visits soon.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:We are reviewing our care home visiting guidance following the emergence of the new omicron variant. We want to do all we can to support safe visiting arrangements.

“We ask everyone to continue to follow all measures to keep them and their loved ones safe, including having a Covid-19 vaccine or booster, taking regular lateral flow tests before mixing with others and visiting loved ones, and booking PCR tests if they develop symptoms.”