Phased reintroduction of family visiting and communal activities for residents.
Care home residents will be able to receive visitors outside from 3 July, provided their home meets strict criteria, with infection control measures remaining in place.
Guidance published today confirms that the next phase of visiting will include outdoor meetings with a single nominated visitor and that face coverings must be worn for the visit’s duration. Currently, only essential visits, including those involving end of life care are permitted.
The guidance builds up to a fourth and final phase of reintroduction which will include controlled indoor visits and wider use of communal areas by residents, with appropriate measures still being observed.
A care home will only be able to permit visiting or relax arrangements for communal activities if they have been COVID-free throughout the pandemic or if all affected residents have fully recovered and no residents have had symptoms for 28 days.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“I fully appreciate that the necessary restrictions placed on care homes have been challenging for the people living in care homes, their loved ones, and the staff. Care homes are first and foremost people’s homes, and it is now important that we find safe ways for residents to reconnect with their families and friends.
“Significant progress is being made and we are continuing to see improvements with fewer care homes currently having an infection. On that basis, we can now see a phased return to visiting in care homes when and where it is clinically safe to do so.
“It is crucial that we do this incrementally and proceed with real caution to protect vulnerable residents and staff. Only outside visiting with a named key visitor using appropriate physical distancing and safety measures can be permitted from 3 July. When the scientific advice states that it is safe to do so, we can then gradually open up further visiting options.
“Today’s publication will be important news for families with loved ones in care homes. I recognise how long people have been waiting to see their friends and families and I hope to be able to offer further updates in the coming weeks in order to reconnect even more loved ones.”
The 28 day period represents twice the extreme incubation period for coronavirus (COVID-19) and given the asymptomatic carriage is the safest estimate of when a home could be declared outbreak free. This is based on public health advice.