Long-term care in North-West Europe is slowly emerging from the corona crisis

In the eight countries monitored by knowledge organisation, Vilans, almost all long-term care clients choosing to do so, have now been vaccinated. In addition, an increasing number of countries are cautiously relaxing their visiting policy. These are the findings contained in the third edition of the International Comparison of Corona Policy published in March 2021.

At the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Vilans has been comparing corona policy in long-term care in Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands since March 2020. In this third study period, there was clear indication of a second wave of infection. This was associated with significantly fewer deaths than during the first wave. Healthcare organisations in the countries were better prepared, there were no shortages of protective equipment and testing facilities were widely available.

The second wave and uncertainty concerning new variants of the virus caused a reluctance to relax visiting arrangements. In addition, measures in the event of an outbreak are increasingly being taken per region or even per institution, instead of nationally. Now that more and more nursing home residents and other vulnerable people in society have been vaccinated, relaxation of visiting policies is again being discussed.

Testing Policy

In all countries, PCR tests from the government and from private providers are now readily available. Rapid testing is also gaining more popularity in the society. The policy differs in the various countries for residents of care institutions. In general, rapid tests are considered inadequate for symptoms that may indicate corona. In the event of a positive result from a rapid test, a PCR test is required as an additional requirement in several countries. This is also done to determine which virus variant is involved.

Vaccination strategy

With the availability of approved vaccines, a vaccination strategy has been established in all countries. This was greatly determined by the availability and logistical conditions to distribute and bring the vaccines to the prioritised target groups and to have them administered by qualified healthcare professionals, in accordance with all necessary healthcare and privacy requirements.

Order of vaccination

In all countries, the highest priority was given to the most vulnerable persons, nursing home clients and residents in facilities for the disabled. This was followed by other target groups, such as medical and nursing staff who deal directly with COVID-19 patients and people in other medical and healthcare professions. Due to logistical circumstances, this group was often given priority over the most vulnerable, in contrast to the initial prioritisation process. With the exception of the United Kingdom, all countries gradually made adjustments to their vaccination strategy. Reasons were limited availability, logistical problems and new scientific insights.

Read the third edition of the International Comparison Corona Approach in Long-term Care here.

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