The decision to close care homes to all but essential visitors comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the UK.
Hill Care is one such care home group that has made the decision to close its homes to all but essential visitors only until further notice.
In a statement on its website Hill Care said: “We have not taken this decision lightly, and appreciate that you may be disappointed, but we feel that our visitors, including relatives and loved ones, would want us to do everything possible to keep the residents in our care safe and well.
“Therefore, we are asking you not to visit unless it is absolutely essential in order to keep your loved ones, and all our other residents, as safe as possible.
“As a result, visits from the local community and external entertainment visits will also be cancelled for the foreseeable future.
“Our staff will do all they can to ensure that life in our services remains as comfortable and sociable as possible. We will still ensure that vital medical visits are made.
“If you can replace your visit and achieve its purpose via another method (i.e. through a phone call or video call) then we would advise doing so.
“Please be assured that Hill Care is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness.
“We are constantly reviewing and updating our guidance for our staff, in line with all the Government advice available, in order to protect everyone in our homes.”
Among the North East homes affected are Brierton Lodge and Sheraton Court in Hartlepool, Eden House in County Durham, Grampian Court in Peterlee, Hebburn Court in South Tyneside, Falstone Manor in Sunderland, Ashington Grange in Northumberland.
A spokeswoman for HC-One said: “HC-One has always had robust policies in place to both prepare for and prevent the spread of any infection, and we are employing these policies to deal with coronavirus.
“In response to the growing UK coronavirus outbreak, we have a number of measures in place and have created a dedicated steering group.
“Led by our Clinical Director, this group is comprised of senior leaders from across the business who meet at least once a day to review and further develop our plans, reflecting the evolving situation.
“To help prevent the spread of infection, the most current and comprehensive advice on how to prevent the spread of the infection is regularly issued to all HC-One homes.
“We have established hand washing stations in the reception areas of all homes and installed additional prominent signage regarding handwashing and other advice throughout.
“We are taking steps to ensure the highest standards of hygiene and infection control, and all staff are undertaking additional training to ensure they are as up to date as possible with the latest guidance.
“To further minimise the risk to residents, we are restricting non-essential visitors from visiting our homes.
“This is a decision that has not been taken lightly. However, the health and safety of our residents is paramount and as a responsible care provider, we have to make decisions which are in the best interest of our residents.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation and the latest advice from the UK and devolved Governments, the NHS and Public Health bodies in relation to COVID-19.
“We are confident that all reasonable steps have been taken to mitigate risk to Residents and Colleagues, and that we have robust contingency plans in place.”
Wellburn Care, which has homes in Sunderland, Washington and Nothumberland, also made the decision to close its homes to visitors.
A Wellburn Care spokeswoman said: “Like many other providers we need to be taking steps to try avoid an outbreak in our homes.
“The health and safety of our residents and staff is of utmost importance.
“Our senior management team met yesterday and after consulting with home managers, we’ve taken the decision to close all 14 of our homes to visitors and non-essential maintenance, with immediate effect.
“This includes family/friends of residents, non-essential suppliers, entertainers and so forth.
“We will however support visits where deemed vital or appropriate (e.g. medical professionals and end of life visits), and that decision will made by the home manager on a case-by-case basis.
“We understand this decision will be as difficult for some to hear as it has been for us to make.
“Regular visits are something we actively encourage, but these are unprecedented times.
“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve seen fellow care home providers up and down the country closing their doors too, and we want to join them in staying ahead of the curve, to do everything we can to safeguard our residents health and wellbeing.”