Care home visitor limits will be LIFTED after Freedom Day on July 19… but loved ones may still have to wear face masks
- Helen Whately warned families to brace for further restrictions on homes
- She said it was ‘step by step’ for homes which have already had 40,000 deaths
- Boris Johnson will iron-out his plans for the homes at a briefing later today
The limit on how many visitors care home residents are allowed will be lifted with the final lockdown-easing, No10 confirmed tonight.
Boris Johnson said the rules will be ditched in a fortnight, if scientific advisers say it is safe for ministers to press ahead with Freedom Day.
Residents in England are currently allowed visits from up to five named relatives and friends, with a maximum of two visitors at any one time or day.
Despite pledging to remove the limit on visitors with the next easing of restrictions, the Government says infection control measures will remain in place.
England’s care minister Helen Whately today admitted care home visits were unlikely to go ‘completely back to normal’.
Before Boris Johnson unveiled his July 19 reopening, Ms Whateley said she expected face masks would still be needed in health and care settings.
Boris Johnson said the rules will be ditched in a fortnight, if scientific advisers say it is safe for ministers to press ahead with Freedom Day (The PM is pictured tonight at a Downing Street press conference)
What are the rules for visiting care homes?
Care homes have several rules in place for visiting, which came into force after the latest lockdown easing in May.
Visitors are required to take a lateral flow test for the virus upon arrival — which take up to 30 minutes to give results.
They are also asked to wear PPE such as aprons, gloves and face masks.
Care home residents are allowed up to five named visitors, with up to two visits from different members of this group a day.
They are also permitted to leave the homes for overnight stays and to go to hospital, but must isolate for two weeks upon their return.
The Prime Minister made no mention of masks in care homes during his Downing St press conference tonight.
But guidance published by the Cabinet Office claimed certain infection control measures are ‘essential’ to protecting residents.
Care homes have effectively been in lockdown since the first wave, when thousands of patients were discharged to them from hospital without being tested.
Visitors to care homes are already required to have tested negative for the virus on the day of their visit, and to wear PPE throughout their visit.
They are advised to keep physical touching to a minimum, and hugs are only safe if they are double-vaccinated, wearing PPE and the contact is brief.
Residents have been allowed up to five named family members or friends to visit since May, and up to two visits a day.
They are also permitted to leave their homes for overnight stays elsewhere, although they must isolate for two weeks upon their return to ‘high risk’ settings.
Care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to Covid, were prioritised during the vaccination rollout when it began in December.
They have all now been offered both doses of the vaccine.
More than 40,000 people living in care homes have died from the virus since the pandemic began.
Helen Whately said some restrictions will remain in place for care homes
Asked how care home visits will change on Freedom Day, Ms Whately told Sky News this morning: ‘I don’t think visiting will completely go back to normal.
‘There will still have to be some precautions.
‘It’s step by step, getting things as close to normal as we can, while still protecting people who are at greater risk from Covid.’
Speaking on Times Radio later, she added visitors and staff would likely still be required to wear face masks.
She said: ‘I’ll be looking at the guidance, I’ll be making a judgement, but I’m not keen to wear one when I don’t need one — personally, it’s not something I enjoy doing.
‘But I’m also really aware that there will be circumstances, I’m expecting to continue in health and social care clearly, where people will need to continue to wear PPE, which includes masks.’
Residents are currently allowed up to five named visitors, and two visits a day. Although in practice many homes are permitting fewer visits than this. (Pictured: Stock)