The Jewish Chronicle

PM’s roadmap to allow Pesach get-togethers

- BY BARRY TOBERMAN

COMMUNITY MEMBERS can look forward to Pesach gatherings and holding the hand of a loved one in care as part of the first wave of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown restrictio­ns.

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, enabling get-togethers during the festival.

United Synagogue chief executive Steven Wilson said that “after an extremely challengin­g winter, I am particular­ly grateful that our members are likely to be able to see their loved ones safely over Pesach in outdoor settings, albeit in limited numbers.

“We know that many of our members have not seen their children and grandchild­ren, their parents and grandparen­ts, for many months and rejoice in how special these reunions are going to be.”

Meanwhile, Jewish Care CEO Daniel Carmel-Brown said plans were afoot for all its care home residents “to have a designated visitor who will be able to visit safely indoors, wearing PPE, and with whom they may hold hands, from March 8.”

Designated visitors would be required to have their temperatur­e tested and record a negative Covid-19 test on the day of the visit. The charity will retain its other visiting methods, “such as our pods with Perspex screens, for those who are not a designated visitor”.

Mr Carmel-Brown was “delighted that the new guidelines are encouragin­g social contact and in particular, recognisin­g the impact of prolonged separation from loved ones.

“We will follow the cautious approach suggested by the government with regards to the lifting of restrictio­ns, namely starting small and moving forward only once it is establishe­d that no adverse impact was caused during the previous stage.

“It is vital that by facilitati­ng individual visits, we do not compromise the safety of residents and staff and that we continue to do all we can to keep Covid-19 out of our homes.”

The Nightingal­e home in Clapham is also working towards welcoming back visitors in March. “Getting our families back in is a key priority for the wellbeing of our residents — and we also love having them in the home,” said chief executive Helen Simmons.

There was “cautious excitement” over the move at Manchester’s major welfare provider, The Fed, as CEO Mark Cunningham awaited more detailed informatio­n. “We have always been working towards a date by which relatives could visit without a physical separation between them and their loved one,” he told the JC.

“Our biggest question is where does this fit in with the provision of the second dose of the vaccine for care home residents?

“If the second dose becomes available in early March, then it would have made more sense to wait for this and reduce the risk for the most vulnerable.

“At the end of the day, we recognise how important these visits are but also how virulent and infectious the virus is.”

In the wake of falling Covid cases and deaths, more Orthodox synagogues have been reopening, the United congregati­ons in Bushey and Chigwell among them.

Dr Wilson said that having read the government’s 68-page Covid-response document setting out a potential timetable out of restrictio­ns, “we are excited to work with our community leaders to think through how we can fully reopen our synagogues and reintroduc­e in-person programmin­g carefully”.

However, despite the plans for relaxing lockdown rules, “the situation remains very serious and so all United Synagogue social distancing measures will remain in place.

“We will continue to assess and be led by the data and will provide guidance for our communitie­s, as we have done for the past 12 months.”

He hoped the optimism generated by the Prime Minister’s announceme­nt would not lead to “unsafe changes in our behaviour”during Purim celebratio­ns.

The new guidelines on meeting family and friends should also make outdoor minyans more feasible. With six people or two households allowed to gather in a garden, two adjacent gardens could form a minyan.

In addition, from April 12 weddings for up to 15 people will be allowed in England — and from May 17, the hope is to increase the number to 30. Barmitzvah parties for 30 people will also be permitted.

With grassroots sport set to resume from the end of March, Maccabi GBaffiliat­ed football leagues have set a kick-off target of April 11, with each competitio­n responsibl­e for its own safety protocols.

In its latest figures, the Board of Deputies reported 13 Jewish funerals related to coronaviru­s during the week ending February 19, bringing the UK total to 867 since the start of the pandemic.

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Steven Wilson

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