A major change to Covid rules in care homes today will allow residents to reunite with loved ones as visitor restrictions are eased.
From Monday (31 January), those living in care homes in England will be allowed to have unlimited visits from family and friends, the government has said.
The rule change will allow residents to reunite with loved ones who they may not have seen for several months.
Care homes will set individual visiting policies
The government first announced the end to national restrictions on care home visits in November last year, but later imposed a limit of three named visitors, plus an essential caregiver, when the Omicron variant arrived in the UK.
The latest change, announced last week, means there are now no nationally-set restrictions on care home visits.
However, individual homes will continue to be able to set their own visiting policies.
Homes that have an outbreak of Covid-19 will not be able to lift restrictions immediately and there are concerns that others may continue to restrict visitor numbers, or not have enough staff to be able to cope with an increase in visitors.
Jenny Morrison, co-founder of the campaign group Rights for Residents, said they “remain fearful” for residents in homes which have not followed previous guidance instructing them to relax visiting policies.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged care homes have “a lot of discretion” over the rules they set and urged providers to do “everything they can to allow as many visitors as they can”.
He said: “If a care home needs to act differently because of an outbreak, then that is understandable as long as they are doing everything they can to allow the maximum number of visitors.”
What other changes have been made?
Other changes to Covid rules mean care homes only have to follow outbreak management rules for 14 days instead of 28 days.
Self-isolation periods will also be cut from 14 days to 10 days for those who test positive, with further reductions if they test negative on days five and six.
Isolation periods for those in care following an emergency hospital visit are also being reduced from 14 to 10 days.
Additionally, care staff will be asked to start using lateral flow tests before their shifts instead of weekly PCR tests from 16 February.
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