Care home residents will be allowed out for more visits and won’t have to self-isolate on return from Tuesday, the government has announced.
Boris Johnson said the continued decline in Covid cases means the care sector – which has experienced a particularly “challenging time” during the pandemic – can begin to follow suit with the rest of the country.
From May 4, residents will be able to visit friends or family members’ gardens, or go on walks in places like parks, public gardens and beaches – without being expected to quarantine later.
However, they must be accompanied by either a care worker or nominated visitor and follow guidelines in relation to washing hands regularly, abiding by social distancing and remaining outside.
It is a further positive step forward for lifting lockdown restrictions.
Care residents are among the most vulnerable to Covid, but the government feels keeping visits to outdoors will ensure any risk is minimised.
Though residents are not allowed to meet in groups and use of public transport should be avoided.
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Mr Johnson said: “We know how challenging this time has been for care home residents, so I am pleased that they can now leave their homes to reunite with their loved ones outdoors.
“With the data continuing to head in the right direction and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way.”
Minister for Care, Helen Whately added that she understood restrictions on trips outside care homes have been “incredibly difficult”.
“This is one more step towards getting back to normal, while protecting care homes from the continued risk of Covid-19.”
She said this step is an interim update to the easing of lockdown, prior to the next stage of the road map on May 17.
At that stage, pubs and restaurants will be able to allow customers inside – and rules on outdoor mixing will be extended to 30 people.
Ms Whately said: “I look forward to encouraging more visiting and trips out in future as we turn the tide on this cruel virus.”
Further exemptions will be made for care home residents to allow those who wish to vote in person in the upcoming local elections to do so – as long as they follow polling station measures.
Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Professor Deborah Sturdy said: “The pandemic has been so incredibly challenging for those living in care homes and our social care workforce have done a heroic job of keeping their residents safe and supported.
“I know this change to the guidance will be hugely welcomed by many and give so many the chance to safely leave their home.”
Additional local advice from directors of Public Health will need to be sought in areas with high or rapidly rising levels of infection or where there is presence of variants of concern.
The latest statistics show that 95 percent of care residents have received their first dose of the vaccine and 71 percent have received their second.
Residents who have tested positive, or who have Covid-19 symptoms, must self-isolate as normal and can’t leave the care home.
In the event of an outbreak, all residents must self-isolate, and visits out would be suspended to prevent the spread of the virus, the government added.
As part of the roadmap out of lockdown, guidance was updated on April 12 for care homes to increase visiting, and allow two nominated visitors per resident.
Guidance on visits out of care homes will be kept under review.