Care home visits from a nominated family member or friend will be allowed in England from today (Mon 8 March).
Residents will be able to nominate one person who will be able to visit them indoors, after months of visitors not being able to step inside.
Care homes first closed their doors to visitors ahead of the first coronavirus lockdown on 23 March 2020, and over the last year visiting guidance has changed numerous times, with visiting opportunities varying across the country.
Although some indoor visits resumed in December due to the rollout of rapid-result tests in care homes, this was not permitted during the current lockdown.
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However, one nominated person is now allowed to visit a care home resident, with residents with the highest care needs able to receive more frequent visits, but there are certain rules which must be followed.
What are the new rules and is hand holding permitted?
Visitors to care homes will have to carry out Covid tests prior to the visits, alongside wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and keeping physical contact to a minimum.
Hand holding is now permitted according to the latest government advice on visiting guidance, but hugs and kisses are still not allowed. This is in order to help stop the chance of spreading coronavirus.
Although care home visiting is not conditional on the resident or visitor having received a Covid-19 vaccine, it is "strongly recommended".
The guidance also says that outdoor visits, window visits and visiting in pods should continue to take place to make sure residents see their loved ones.
If a Covid outbreak occurs in a care home, nominated visitors will not be allowed to enter, states the guidance.
However, the guidance is advisory and says that care home managers are “best placed” to decide how best to enable visiting.
The Government will then decide whether or not to extend the number of visitors to two per resident at step two of its road map, which will be no earlier than 12 April.
‘Close contact indoor visits must be the default position’
The Alzheimer’s Society has said care home visits resuming inside again “couldn’t have come soon enough”, after months of families and friends only being able to wave to their loved ones through screens and windows.
James White, head of public affairs and campaigns, said: “Close contact indoor visits must be the default position – so it’s good the Government has been clear that blanket bans on visiting are not acceptable.
“We’ve campaigned for many months to ensure family carers are recognised as essential to the care of people with dementia.
“We’ll be monitoring the situation very carefully to ensure all types of permitted visits are happening, and look for them to be extended to more family members at the earliest possible opportunity.
“We hope, at last, further anguish and loss of life can be ended for people with dementia, who have been worst hit by the pandemic and endured months of isolation.”