Care home residents in England will be allowed to nominate five regular visitors from Monday (17 May), as the country moves into the next phase of easing lockdown.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said the named visitors can attend care homes two at a time, or individually.
Babies and pre-school children will not count towards the visitor limit, meaning young families can visit a care home without exceeding the five person rule, providing this does not breach guidance on indoor gatherings - which is limited to six people.
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New guidance for visitors
To minimise the risk of infection, care home residents will not be allowed more than two visitors in the same day.
Residents with special care needs may also choose to nominate an essential carer as one of their five visitors, and the carer will remain exempt from the two visitors per day limit.
DHSC guidance states that named visitors should be regularly tested, wear appropriate personal protective equipment and maintain social distancing.
Physical contact should also be kept to a minimum, although visitors and residents will be allowed to hold hands, as long as they are aware of the increased risk of Covid transmission.
However, other close physical contact like hugging is still banned in care homes.
The DHSC said care homes should still offer visits to residents’ friends and relatives who are not among their five named contacts via outdoor visiting, rooms with protective Covid screens, visiting pods or from behind windows.
Greater freedom for residents
Residents will now also have greater freedom to leave their care homes without having to quarantine for 14 days upon return.
As of 17 May, they have the right to take part in off-site education or training and leave for medical appointments without needing to quarantine afterwards.
However, residents will still have to self-isolate following overnight stays in hospital.
The DHSC said residents can also leave for activities that are “necessary to maintain an individual’s health and wellbeing”, such as a trip to a day centre or a visit to a place of worship, without having to self-isolate.
It added that care home staff should carry out a specific risk assessment for each resident who wishes to make a visit, including considering levels of infection and the presence of variants of concern in the community.
Residents who make a visit for anything other than the three permitted activities, such as an overnight stay with a family member, should still self-isolate for two weeks upon return.
The DHSC said: “This remains under active review and it is our ambition that guidance on the need for self-isolation following overnight stays will be amended as soon as the data and evidence show it is safe.”