Care homes: What are the new rules on visits? Do I need a test or a vaccine?
Written by Hitmix News on 21 February 2021
Care home residents will be allowed to have a regular indoor visitor from 8 March as part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown in England.
The Department of Health said the relaxation of the restrictions struck a balance between the risk of infection and the importance of visiting for the mental and physical wellbeing of residents and their families.
But sounding a note of caution, care homes point out coronavirus, which particularly impacts the elderly in terms of severe illness, has not gone away and visits will still require “very close but compassionate supervision”.
Aren’t care home visits already allowed?
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‘Inhumane’ to prevent care home visits
Government guidance for the current lockdown, which came into force on 6 January, highlights the importance of visiting.
Although it acknowledged this inevitably brings infection risk, it said it was one which care homes could mitigate.
It states: “Visiting should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely – in line with this guidance and within a care home environment that takes proportionate steps to manage risks.”
However, many care homes have remained closed to all but end-of-life visits in a bid to keep at bay more infectious, rapid spreading mutant strains.
Image: The nominated visitor will have to take a coronavirus lateral flow test
So what will be permitted from 8 March?
One nominated person will be allowed to visit someone in a care home, but must take a coronavirus lateral flow test before entry and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
Residents will be asked not to hug or kiss their relatives, although hand-holding will be permitted.
Guidance for care homes is expected to be published in the next fortnight.
Outdoor visits will also continue, giving residents the chance to see more than just their named visitor.
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Where are we on vaccinations in care homes?
The government met its target to offer all care home residents – along with social care and NHS staff, all those aged over 70 and the most clinically vulnerable – a vaccine by 15 February.
Scientists believe the vaccines become effective after three weeks, meaning by 8 March all those who accepted a vaccine should have a good level of protection from COVID-19.
However, vaccination will not be a condition of visiting.
Visits will also be suspended during local outbreaks in individual homes.
How have care homes been affected by the pandemic?
Care homes are seen to have borne the brunt of COVID-19, particularly during the first wave.
It follows the controversial decision to discharge thousands of patients from hospitals without being tested, even after it became clear people could transmit the virus without having any symptoms.
Latest official figures show the number of care home resident deaths linked to COVID-19 in England and Wales stand at more than 33,000.