Family and friends will be allowed to enter care homes for regular visits from 8 March following a change in guidance, the government has announced.
Every care home resident will be permitted to nominate a single named visitor who will be able to see them regularly under the new rules.
Additionally, residents with the highest care needs will be able to nominate an essential care giver.
Rule change from 8 March
The new guidance applies from 8 March and applies to care homes in England for working age and older adults.
Rules state that single named visitors and essential care givers will 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 during visits.
While visitors will be allowed inside, it is advised that physical contact with residents is kept to a minimum due to the increased risk of transmission, meaning hugging will not be allowed.
Care homes can continue to offer visits to other family members or friends with special arrangements, such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows.
It is not required that visitors or residents should have been vaccinated against Covid-119 to be allowed to spend time together, although the government is encouraging everyone to take up the opportunity to be inoculated when they are invited.
In the event of a Covid-19 outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop visiting - except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life, and for essential care givers - in order to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.
The government has said that the new guidance does not apply directly to people living in supported living and extra care settings, as the diversity of these locations and the needs of residents means it will not be suitable in all cases.
However, supported living and extra care managers may wish to use the guidance to help them support safe visiting in these settings, such as by implementing additional rapid lateral flow testing.
It remains the case that many residents in supported living and extra care settings will be able to receive visits by forming a support bubble.
More visitors to be allowed soon
When the data shows it is safe, the government wants to go further and allow more visitors to be allowed to see care home residents.
In step two of the roadmap, which will be no earlier than 12 April, the government will assess the effectiveness of the vaccine for people living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable, plus the levels of infection in the community.
After this, a decision will be made on increasing the number of visitors to two per resident and will set out a plan for the next phase of visits for people in residential care.
These decisions should involve the resident, their family and friends, plus the provider and other relevant professionals, such as social workers or clinicians, where appropriate.