Is It Safe To Visit Your Grandparents & Elderly People During The Coronavirus Outbreak?
This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest news around the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the UK.
Under previous lockdown rules, people in the UK were not permitted to meet up with friends or family, but as lockdown eases, those rules are changing. Since May 13, two people from different households have been able to meet in outdoor settings – such as parks – while observing social distancing guidelines. And this week, on May 28, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that groups of six (from different households) would be able to meet from June 1, again while maintaining the two-metre rule. But what do the new lockdown rules mean for the elderly and is it safe to visit your grandparents? Here’s what we know so far.
What does the new government strategy say about meeting friends and family?
Following the PM's briefing on May 28, it's permitted (from June 1) for up to six people to meet in gardens and other private – and public – outdoors spaces, as long as those from different households remain two metres apart. However, the government warned that people should not go inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access gardens.
“These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, perhaps seeing both parents at once or both grandparents at once,” said Johnson, “and I know that for many people this will be a long awaited and joyful moment.”
Johnson stressed, however, that this guidance did not apply to anyone who has a pre-existing health condition that may make them more vulnerable, those over 70, and pregnant women – who are all advised to continue to minimise contact with those outside their household.
Importantly, the government makes clear that "those who are showing symptoms [of COVID-19], however mild, must continue to self-isolate at home" and that "household quarantine rules continue to apply."
SAGE, the Government's scientific advisers, have said that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside; hence why easing lockdown measures specify meeting outdoors. This, however, is conditional. Higher fines will be imposed on individuals who break social distancing rules, the government confirmed.
Do the easing restrictions apply to healthy 70 year olds and over?
On May 11, a 51-page government blueprint named Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 Recovery Strategy was published, outlining further details and advice. When it comes to those aged over 70, the blueprint advises that these individuals continue to “take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.”
The document acknowledges that those aged 70 and over can be “absolutely fit and healthy” and that it is “not the case that everybody over 70 has a chronic health condition or an underlying disease.”
“But unfortunately, we also know that as you get older, there is a higher risk of coronavirus having a more serious impact with infection. Complications and deaths are more common in the elderly, even those without pre-existing conditions.”
“Anyone who has been advised to shield by the NHS or their GP, including those 70 and over, should continue to do this until at least the end of June,” it emphasises.
So is it safe to visit your grandparents at this time?
It is crucial to follow health advice, but it is also vital not to panic. If your grandparents are healthy and well, you can meet outdoors, as long as you observe social distancing. The government implores the use of "common sense" and to "stay alert" in order to avoid a second peak of infection.
If your grandparents live in their own home, you should check in with them regularly via phone or email, but should think closely before visiting them in person. When considering your options, it may be useful to know that the Irish government has said social distancing should be practiced with grandparents, even if neither they nor the visitor are sick.
Dr. Jonas Nilsen, a co-founder of travel vaccination specialist Practio advises "against people visiting their grandparents if they show any symptoms of respiratory disease — even a simple cough or a running nose.” If it is essential that you visit elderly relatives at this time, it would be sensible to "exert basic protective measures like frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitiser," says Dr. Nilsen.
The government has outlined a “range of guidance” and support for those in need. Its National Shielding Programme provides food supplies, pharmacy deliveries and care. All support is available through the NHS volunteer responders app.
Contributions by Lauren Sharkey, Aoife Hanna and L'Oréal Blackett.
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If you or someone you’ve been in close contact with appears to have shown or be showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, visit the NHS website in the UK to find out the next steps you should take or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.
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