Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV News the government will be reopening care homes for visits again soon.
Since mid-March, visiting in care homes has been banned keeping thousands of people away from their elderly relatives for almost four months. Leading charities have said the mental and physical health of residents is suffering due to ‘enforced separation’.
Mr Hancock told ITV News on Thursday: “We’ve been very very careful to ensure that visitors don’t bring coronavirus back into a care home but in the next few days we will be setting out how COVID secure visiting can happen in care homes.
“How we can have more visits of loved ones in a way that is very careful and in a way that keeps care homes safe.”
He added: “I very much hope that in the next few days we’ll be able to make this change. We’ve got to make sure it works for each local area but I hope we can make that change very soon.”
During the conversation, Hancock refused to apologise for Boris Johnson’s claims that care homes were at fault for coronavirus deaths. Hancock did say that social care workers had gone to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to keep people safe throughout the pandemic.
Hancock also appeared to suggest that he would lobby for a pay rise.
Regarding a second wave, the Health Secretary said: “Well I very much hope there won’t be one. People talk about the second wave as if its something that is inevitable.”
Hancock reflected on the worst moment of the pandemic saying: “The hardest time without a doubt was after we’d brought in the lockdown, when the numbers were still going up, and we knew that the impact of the lockdown would have an impact in a couple of weeks’ time but we didn’t know how much of an impact.”
The update on care home visits comes as leading charities join forces to call on the government to allow relatives of dementia patients to be treated as key workers.
The BBC reports that Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society have signed a letter to the Health Secretary calling on visits to resume safely and relatives to be given ‘key worker’ access to care homes and coronavirus testing.
During the pandemic, there have been 5,404 excess deaths, which is a 52.5% increase compared with the five-year average in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said a balance needed to be struck between allowing family visits and protecting care home residents from further coronavirus outbreaks.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Families are a really important part of care delivery but at the same time you have to be really, really cautious because, as people know, care homes have been really badly affected during this pandemic.
“People living in care homes are probably at the highest risk, so if there is an outbreak of Covid-19, it has serious and very tragic consequences, so I think we have to balance the need for people to engage with their relatives and families but also we have a responsibility for the protection and safety of the people in care homes.”
You should wear masks and avoid kissing during sex to stop spread of coronavirus, experts say
Strictly no kissing!
A sexual health charity has published advice on sex in a pandemic, and it includes avoiding kissing, wearing face masks and not using face to face positions.
Terrence Higgins Trust has said that 84% of people have abstained from having sex with a partner they don’t live with throughout the lockdown, but the charity urges officials that this is no longer realistic.
Asking people to refrain from sex completely is no longer realistic now there has been easing of the lockdown measures.
The charity said we need to find a way ‘to balance our need for sex and intimacy with the risks of the spread of Covid-19’.
The charity’s advice is simple, the best sexual partner during a pandemic is either yourself or a partner you already live with.
The advice explains that masturbation, sex toys, phone sex or online sex are all great and safe alternatives.
If you are having sex with someone you don’t live with, the charity suggests limiting the number of sexual partners. It also provides a list of other precautions you should take, and some might seem a bit unusual at first.
First up, like anything these days, before and after sex you need to wash your hands for 20 seconds. Nothing gets you in the mood quite like lathering up your hands as you hum Happy Birthday twice over!
Next, the advice states to avoid kissing, to wear a face mask during intercourse and to pick positions that are not face to face – get creative!
The charity also warns that the virus can be found in some bodily fluids, so ensure you are wearing condoms and dams for oral sex.
Other advice has even gone one step further, and suggested using physical barriers like glory holes that prevent face-to-face contact but allow sexual contact.
Dr Michael Brady, the charity’s medical director, said: “We’re clear that abstaining from sex is the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus, but we hope by issuing this advice we will help people to manage the risks of Covid-19 while also being able to have and enjoy sex.”
The charity also stresses the importance of practising good sexual health beyond the pandemic, including getting tested before becoming sexually active again.
Jet2 plane circles Greater Manchester after people report hearing ‘loud bang’
A plane was spotted circling the skies above Greater Manchester this afternoon, with witnesses reporting that they heard a ‘loud bang’.
The Manchester Evening News reports that a Jet2 Boeing 757 took off from Manchester Airport, but ended up circling the skies above Greater Manchester – as seen on online flight trackers.
According to the MEN, the flight has now landed safely back down at Manchester Airport.
A Twitter user said: “I saw the plane as it flew overhead. Following the noises, it stopped climbing and banked left. Looks to be trying to return to the Airport. Fingers/eyes/toes crossed that everyone & everything is okay x”.
Others reported they heard a ‘loud bang’ that could have been an ‘engine backfiring’.
One user wrote: “That was scary to hear and witness flames coming out of the right engine! Never heard anything like it before living under flight path”.
Some reports on Twitter suggest the noise could’ve been a bird strike.
The latest update from the MEN says the plane was on a test flight, with the airline set to issue an official statement shortly.
The ‘best meteor shower of the year’ will be visible over the UK this week
This will be amazing!
The Perseid meteors are active between mid-July and the end of August, and this year they will be reaching their peak this week.
There is set to be as many as 50 to 100 comets flying across the sky each hour, as part of the spectacle this week.
To get the best glimpse of the meteor shower, you’re gonna have to stay up late. The Royal Observatory advises that The Perseids will be most visible between midnight and 5:30am.
The meteors will be flying across the skies on the nights of August 11th and 12th, meaning you can get a glimpse as early as tomorrow evening!
According to the Royal Observatory: “[The shower] is always above the horizon as seen from the UK, which means that observers in the UK should be able to see some meteors as soon as the Sun sets.
“Therefore, it is worth looking up in the early evening.
“It is always favourable to try and spot meteors when the Moon is below the horizon or when it is in its crescent phase, because otherwise it will act as a natural light pollution and will prevent the fainter meteors from being visible.”
Many stargazers wait all year for this extra special meteor shower due to the rate and brightness of the meteors.
The Perseid meteor shower is caused as the Earth moves through a stream of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has a huge 133-year orbit.
The particles hit the Earth at a super speed of 37 miles per second, burning and streaking across the sky.
It is possible to see some rare meteors just before midnight that graze the Earth’s atmosphere and produce the occasional bright long trail, called a ‘fireball’.
The Royal Observatory recommends heading to the countryside for the best view, and to ensure you’re in an area of clear skies.
Find out more about the Perseid meteor shower here.