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Coronavirus: Care home residents in England allowed visits from friends and families again

Risk assessments will be undergone prior to homes being reopened, Department of Health and Social Care says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 22 July 2020 14:30 BST
Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives at Downing Street on 1 July
Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives at Downing Street on 1 July

Matt Hancock has announced visits to some care homes in England will restart this week in a significant easing of the coronavirus restrictions introduced four months ago.

The government said appropriate safety precautions, including face coverings and social distancing, will be required and local directors of public health will lead the decision-making process for visits.

Risk assessments will also be undergone prior to homes being reopened, including looking at local outbreaks and the situations specific to individual care homes across the country.

The Department of Health and Social Care added that to limit the risk of transmission of Covid-19 where visits do go ahead there should be a “single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible”.

The health secretary said: “I know how important this is. My heart goes out to those who haven’t seen loved ones in care homes for months. I hope this step helps people come back together.”

“We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home,” Mr Hancock added.

“It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone.”

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month, one in five care home residents became infected with Covid-19 once the disease was present, while separate figures show that between March and June almost 20,000 deaths in social care settings have been linked to coronavirus.

It is understood that the decision whether or not to allow visits to care homes will ultimately be for the providers and managers of each care home to make.

Care home providers will also be asked to provide a record of visitors to supply to the NHS test and trace service as a precautionary measure for any localised outbreak of the coronavirus.

Professor Jim McManus, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “We know it is incredibly difficult to be separated from loved ones but restrictions were essential to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The new guidance will support directors of public health, working with directors of adult social care and the local care sector, to take a risk-based approach to enabling visits where possible whilst trying to prevent the spread of Covid-19 between care home residents, staff and the wider community.”

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