Advice to care homes warning them to use only artificial trees, wipeable decorations and to have no festive ornaments if there is a coronavirus outbreak this Christmas has been branded “bah humbug”.
The National Care Forum (NCF) said homes had been advised about the “dangers” of Yuletide decorations.
The organisation, labelling it “baublegate”, said it comes at a time when the “hope and joy” of the festive season is needed more than ever.
The NCF said examples of local infection prevention and control (IPC) advice included that there should be no wood, straw or live trees, only laminated single-use decorations should be used, and that there should be no Christmas decorations during an outbreak, or near isolation areas.
It also said advice had been given that cards and decorations should be quarantined for three days before opening, and presents should be brought to homes unwrapped, to be wrapped by staff.
Liz Jones, policy director at the National Care Forum, said “the spectre of infection prevention control overkill lurks”.
She said: “Up and down the country, managers and care workers are digging out the Christmas decorations, untangling the tinsel and dusting off the baubles.
“While Covid has limited so many things in care homes, surely we can still ‘deck the halls’.
“This year, more than any other, the hope and joy of Christmas is needed… But it seems the spectre of infection prevention control overkill lurks.”
She added: “We have yet to find any evidence to underpin this latest flurry of bah humbug advice.
“Quite frankly, IPC advice on Christmas decs is the icing on the (Christmas) cake.
“Christmas decorations can be used safely and sensibly and are a key part of the festive cheer that we all need so badly.
“Baublegate must not happen.”
Previously academics have said the risk of spreading Covid-19 from sending Christmas cards is low.
Dr Julian Tang, honorary associate professor at the University of Leicester, advised that cards and similar objects with the potential to carry the virus pose “minimal risk” of infection and that people with concerns should wash their hands after opening cards and avoid touching their mouths, eyes or noses to reduce the chances of infection further.
Research published by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO in October suggested that while the virus can last up to four weeks on mobile phone screens and banknotes, it has a much shorter survival on porous surfaces like paper.
In its winter plan, published on Monday, the Government pledged relatives of care home residents in England will be able to hug their loved ones before Christmas if they test negative for coronavirus and wear protective equipment.