Coronavirus victims can have loved ones at their side in their final moments

15 April 2020, 17:22

Matt Hancock led the press conference
Matt Hancock led the press conference. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

People dying with coronavirus in care homes will be able to have loved ones at their side, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

New government guidelines will ensure Covid-19 victims in care homes will be able to have family members by their side in their final moments "wherever possible."

Mr Hancock said the death of 13-year-old Ismail, who passed away without a loved one by his side, "made me weep" and so the families of victims will have the right to say goodbye.

"Wanting to be with someone you love at the end of their life is one of the deepest human instincts," the health and social care secretary said.

"We are introducing new procedures so we can limit the risk of infection while wherever possible giving people's closest loved ones the chance to say goodbye."

He also announced new procedures to allow families to grieve for their loved ones at funerals.

The secretary of state added that all care home residents discharged from hospital will be tested before being readmitted to their care home, as well as all staff who need testing.

He said the government would be increasing supplies of PPE to social care workers, using the Royal Mail to deliver the equipment.

However, lockdown measures appear to be staying in place, with the 41-year-old saying: "We cannot let up in our efforts, we cannot let go of the hard work that's been done so far.

"This shared sacrifice - and I know it's a sacrifice - is starting to work but we will not lift these measures until it is safe to do so."

In addition, social care workers will now have access to a "single brand" badge that will grant them access to similar perks enjoyed by NHS staff.

"This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo," Mr Hancock said.

"I know that many businesses will want to offer the same recognition and benefits as they do wonderfully to the NHS."

The government now plans to strengthen the national recruitment campaign to get more people working in the care sector.

Mr Hancock also reassured the public that spare capacity in intensive care has now reached a new record of 2,657 beds: "At no point has the NHS been unable to offer care to people suffering from coronavirus."

Matt Hancock said social care testing would increase
Matt Hancock said social care testing would increase. Picture: PA

Mr Hancock was joined in the press conference with the Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence Professor Dame Angela McLean.

Prof Whitty said data shows the UK is "probably reaching the peak" of coronavirus cases but warned it was too early to say so confidently.

He added that the number of deaths may continue to rise and explained that reaching the peak is different to passing the peak.

Dame McLean said there was continuing evidence that the social distancing measures were having an impact.

She said the numbers of cases of people testing positive for Covid-19 had not increased for the past two weeks.

"What I see here is evidence that everybody's efforts to stay home and not have as much contact with other people is having the impact we hoped it would have and bring this epidemic to a much better trajectory where this is currently flat and no longer rising," she added.

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