Covid rules for residents in care homes in England are changing from today (Tues 4 May), with residents able to leave for visits that are deemed ‘low risk’ without having to isolate on their return.
But what are the rules for residents going out and what other changes are coming into place?
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the rules for care home residents going out?
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Care home residents are now able to leave for ‘low risk’ visits without having to isolate for 14 days on their return.
The change comes after a campaign by family members of some care home residents, who threatened legal action against the Government unless the blanket coronavirus requirements were dropped.
Residents will be able to leave their care home for a walk or visit a family or friend’s garden.
Those who do venture out must still follow social distancing measures and be accompanied either by a member of staff throughout or by one of the two people who are their nominated visitors.
Residents may also be able to eat outside at a restaurant with their care worker or a nominated visitor, but only if this has been agreed with the care home in advance, and can only go indoors for the use of toilets, or to cast a vote in the upcoming local elections.
Care Minister Helen Whately said: "I know this has been long-awaited for those who haven't had a chance to enjoy trips out. I look forward to encouraging more visiting and trips out in future as we turn the tide on this cruel virus."
Residents who attend medical appointments or leave for overnight visits will still be subject to a 14-day isolation period on their return.
What are the rules for people visiting care homes?
Currently, every care home resident in England can nominate up to two named visitors who will be able to enter the care home for regular visits. These named visitors are able to visit together or separately.
However, these visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures the care home has in place during visits.
Visitors and residents are also advised to keep physical contact to a minimum, but can hold hands if they wish.
Residents with higher care needs can also choose to nominate an essential care giver, alongside their two nominated named visitors.Care homes can also continue to offer visits to other friends or family members through arrangements such as outdoor visiting, rooms with substantial screens, visiting pods, or from behind windows.
When could other care home rules be relaxed?
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said the self-isolation requirements that continue to remain in place for residents in England will be reviewed when the next stage of the Government's roadmap is reached, which will be on 17 May.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "With the data continuing to head in the right direction and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way."
The rules for care home residents currently differ across the UK, with residents in Wales able to leave homes without isolating on their return, residents in Scotland able to see loved ones outside of the care home, and rules for care homes and their residents in Northern Ireland varying by region.