Care home visits are unlikely to go back to normal after July 19

Care home visits are unlikely to go back to normal after Freedom Day on July 19 because loved ones will still need to wear masks, minister says

  • Helen Whately warned families to brace for further restrictions on homes
  • She said it was ‘step by step’ for homes which have already had 40,000 deaths
  • Boris Johnson will iron-out his plans for the homes at a briefing later today 

Care home visits will not go ‘back to normal’ after July 19 because visitors will still need to wear masks, England’s care minister admitted today. 

Helen Whately warned families to brace themselves for some restrictions to remain in place, claiming there would be a more ‘step by step’ approach to opening the sector. 

But charities accused ministers of forgetting about the homes as they prepare for a ‘big bang’ reopening that will see the return of night clubs and festivals.

Boris Johnson will iron out his plans for ending lockdown in two weeks this afternoon, although it is expected many measures will remain in place.

Visitors to care homes are already required to have tested negative for the virus on the day of their visit, and to wear PPE throughout their visit. 

They are advised to keep physical touching to a minimum, and that hugs are only safe if they are double-vaccinated, wearing PPE and the contact is brief.

Residents have been allowed up to five named family members or friends to visit since May, and up to two visits a day.

They are also permitted to leave their homes for overnight stays elsewhere, although they must isolate for two weeks upon their return.

Care home residents have all been offered at least two doses of the jab. More than 40,000 Covid deaths have been recorded in the sector since the pandemic began.  

Helen Whately said some restrictions will remain in place for care homes

Residents are currently allowed up to five named visitors, and two visits a day. Although in practice many homes are permitting fewer visits than this. (Pictured: Stock)

Care homes have several rules in place for visiting, which came into force after the latest lockdown easing in May.

Visitors are required to take a lateral flow test for the virus upon arrival — which take up to 30 minutes to give results.

They are also asked to wear PPE such as aprons, gloves and face masks.

Care home residents are allowed up to five named visitors, with up to two visits from different members of this group a day.

They are also permitted to leave the homes for overnight stays and to go to hospital, but must isolate for two weeks upon their return. 

Asked how care home visits will change on Freedom Day, Ms Whately told Sky News: ‘I don’t think visiting will completely go back to normal. 

‘There will still have to be some precautions.

‘It’s step by step, getting things as close to normal as we can, while still protecting people who are at greater risk from Covid.’

Speaking on Times Radio later, she added visitors and staff would likely still be required to wear face masks. 

She said: ‘I’ll be looking at the guidance, I’ll be making a judgement, but I’m not keen to wear one when I don’t need one — personally, it’s not something I enjoy doing.

‘But I’m also really aware that there will be circumstances, I’m expecting to continue in health and social care clearly, where people will need to continue to wear PPE, which includes masks.’ 

The director of charity the Relatives and Residents Association (R&RA), Helen Wildbore, said: ‘R&RA have been calling for the Government to publish a strategy for reopening care settings for over a year now.

‘Callers to our helpline are in despair at not knowing where they stand and when the restrictions will be lifted.

‘We hear a growing sense of dread that people living in care will be left behind and forgotten as the rest of the country gets back to normal.’

Boris Johnson will set out his plans for Freedom Day easings including new rules for care homes at 5pm. 

Care homes have effectively been in lockdown since the first wave, when patients were discharged to them from hospital without being tested for the virus.

Their residents — who are among the most vulnerable to the virus — were prioritised during the jabs rollout which aimed to protect as many people as fast as possible.

They have all now been offered both doses of the vaccine.

More than 40,000 people living in care homes have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

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