The removal of the Perspex shield during visits to the elderly at care homes has evoked mixed reactions, with some people “relieved” to see their loved ones without the transparent barrier standing between them and others feeling “safer” before.

“I am very pleased and relieved,” David Kelleher said.

“It will make a world of a difference to my mum, Rose, who is 83. Speaking to her from behind a face shield and Perspex is challenging at times but what hurts most is the distancing... that cold feeling that you’re visiting someone locked up. Close but so far away.”

Removing the Perspex along with the easing of other restrictions, he said, has brought hugging her a step closer.

“Hopefully, very soon, we will spend time with her outside of the care home,” Kelleher said.

In the first lifting of restrictions, care homes were, as of yesterday, allowed to resume in-person visits without the use of a barrier for up to two people from the same household.

To take this step, 90 per cent of residents must have received their second dose of the vaccine – which applies to most homes – and 15 days should have elapsed from that second vaccination.

Visitors must still wear a mask and maintain a two-metre distance from the resident – so hugging and touching is not yet allowed.

The experience has not been positive for everyone.

“Speaking personally, we were better off with the Perspex,” Josette Mifsud, whose 87-year-old mother, Maria Concetta Giles,  has dementia, said.

“Now my mother has to wear a mask which she constantly tries to remove. Today,  she removed it as she has no concept of its importance. And when it’s on we can barely understand what she is trying to say. Communication is harder as we have to wear a mask and visor.”

It felt safer before, she said.

“Even though my mother is vaccinated, there is still the worry of what if.”

Over the years, Mifsud and her eight brothers and sisters have taken it in turns to visit their mother at the home, ensuring someone visited every single day.

When the novel coronavirus pandemic struck and visits to care homes were suspended, they had to speak to their mother through WhatsApp but this way of communication was not very successful. 

So they were glad when visits resumed in groups of two households. However, under the new guidelines only one household can visit at a time, so they are each seeing their mother less often, she said. 

Restrictions introduced by the authorities in early March started being eased yesterday, with primary school classrooms reopening to students, homes for the elderly accepting external visitors and elective surgeries at Mater Dei Hospital resuming. 

The COVID-19 hospitalisation rate is currently at its lowest point since August 2020, data published by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention indicates.

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