Worries support bubbles would be scrapped amidst soaring coronavirus infection rates have been scorched by health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi had said on Monday that all Covid-19 measures are under review, causing some to fear that measures put in place to protect those facing loneliness or isolation could be taken away.
The bubbles were brought in last year to allow certain people, such as those living alone, to form a support network with another household.
Two homes in a bubble can stay overnight and are allowed close contact, such as hugging and kissing – but only certain people are eligible.
In a Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said he wanted to be “crystal clear” that the policy would remain.
“I can rule out removing the bubbles that we have in place – the childcare bubbles (and) the support bubbles are very important and we’re going to keep them,” he said.
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“I know how important they are to people and they are an important part of the system that we have got to support people whilst also having these tough measures that are necessary.”
However, he said it was important for people to stick to the rules of support bubbles, in order to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
“The bubbles are there for individual, specific people – so if you have bubbled with somebody, that is the person you have bubbled with,” he said.
“You can’t keep moving bubbles, that’s very important. Somebody in your bubble essentially becomes effectively part of your household.
“It is important that people stick to the same bubble but the bubbles policy will stay.”
Charity Age UK welcomed the news, saying the policy had given hundreds of thousands of elderly people the strength to carry on.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said: “Getting the balance right between infection control and wellbeing has been a constant challenge throughout the pandemic.
“But there’s no doubt that for many older people living on their own the opportunity to form a ‘support bubble’ has made a huge difference, giving them the strength to carry on.”