The UK government has announced that controlled visits will be allowed in care homes to enable people to safely see their loved ones as it begins the cautious easing of lockdown.
Restrictions on visits to care homes have been in place during the COVID-19 lockdowns to protect vulnerable residents. The government is now implementing effective infection control measures to allow for safe visits from one designated individual, including the requirement for tests before entering a home and the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when on site.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how important visiting a loved one is, and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes. This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.”
The scheme will allow a single visitor to hold hands indoors with their relative or contact in a care home and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff, and visitors safe now that infection rates are falling. The visits will be taking place either outdoors, in pods, or behind screens, meaning there will be chances for residents to see more than just the one person they nominate.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “One of the hardest things during this pandemic has been seeing families desperate to be reunited with their loved ones kept apart and I absolutely want to bring them back together. Throughout this pandemic we have sought clinical guidance on how visits can be conducted safely.
“We had to restrict the majority of visiting when the new variant was discovered but we have done all we can to enable visits to continue in some form. That includes providing funding towards costs of screens and PPE. As we begin to open up, we will move step by step to increase visits while remembering we are still in the grip of a global pandemic.”
Professor Deborah Sturdy, chief nurse for adult social care, said: “I know how much people want to visit, hug, and kiss their loved ones but doing so can put lives at risk so we would ask people to continue to follow the rules. This is a first step towards resuming indoor visits and we all hope to be able to take further steps in the future. I am pleased that, as a result of so many people following the rules, we are in a position to increase visits and I hope this is just the start.”
The government will also be providing extra support for carers by providing the same regular PCR testing regime and PPE arrangements as care home workers.