The Joy of Human Touch

After a fourteen-month ban, we can we visit our loved ones in residential institutions, nursing and elderly homes, with the government issued COVID-19 immunity card to. One phase of the pandemic is over, but the virus is still with us. András Beszterczey, Head of the Diaconal Office of RCH in an interview says people living in the institutions won't get their old lives back for several months. Vaccinated people, already after the first shot, and those who have recovered from COVID-19 are eligible for the Hungarian immunity cards, which must be presented at establishments before entry.

Beszterczey András

András Beszterczey

Fotó: László Sebestyén

Visits to nursing and elderly homes and any residential institutions are open again. What does this mean for the residents and staff?

As the third wave is winding down, residents were hoping that they might be able to meet their loved ones in person on Mother's Day. Then, at the end of April the Chief Medical Officer announced that visitors could come and visit again. The elderly began to prepare, eagerly awaiting their relatives they couldn’t see for so long. Now the grandmothers and great-grandmothers could celebrate with the family. Current regulations allow the elderly to leave the home, even to go home with the family. It was a great joy to finally meet in person, not only in the glass-walled visiting room, to experience the joy of touching, and of course there were tears and smiles.

How does loosening of the restrictions affect spiritual life?

Here at the Schweitzer Albert Reformed Elderly Home, residents have been able to participate in worship services for months broadcasted through the speakerphone system installed in our rooms, but now, thanks to the fact that the Reformed churches have been reopened at Pentecost, we have organised a joint Sunday service on Mother's Day. Literally everyone who could, attended the worship in person. Our meeting hall was full. It was a touching moment for me.


Protected by a plexi wall during visits in elderly homes

Fotó: László Sebestyén

What are the rules for visiting?

Visits are subject to the presentation of an immunity certificate, which is issued after the first vaccination by the health authorities in form of a plastic card. We have sent a recommendation to the homes, asking the managers to limit the duration of visits, and not allow more than two visitors in double rooms at the same time. Those who do not have an immunity card can meet their loved one in the room we prepared for contactless encounters, like before. We also encourage residents to meet visitors outdoors, by good weather conditions. They can also leave the premises if they have an immunity card, if not, they can leave for up to seventy-two hours, and if they do stay out longer, they need a rapid antigen test before returning. These restrictions also intend to remind residents and family members to be vigilant, because the virus is still with us. However, the high level of vaccination relieves at least the anxiety of being in danger of life should anyone be infected. Still, we can’t be fully relieved yet. I think it will be at least another year before we can lift all the restrictions.

Pandemic management in the institutions of the Diaconal Office in numbers

  • The Diaconal Office spent half a billion Hungarian Forints (1,4 Mio EUR) on prevention.
  • Vaccination rate of residents in the institutions: over 90%.
  • Vaccination of staff in the institutions: 70%.
  • Residents who died of COVID-19: 15 people.

In addition to the protective gear provided by the state, the Diaconal Office purchased following items during the Pandemic:

  • General surface disinfectant: 7000 litres.
  • Hand disinfectant: 4000 litres.
  • Surgical masks: 200 000 pieces.
  • Rubber gloves: 325 000 pairs.
  • FFP2/KN95 protective masks: 53 000 pieces.
  • Overalls, other protective clothing: 18 000 pieces.

Rapid test: 750 pieces.