are home residents will be allowed one regular visitor from March 8 under the new easing of lockdown restrictions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “pleased” that it would soon be possible for people to be “carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes”.
Outdoor visits – as well as those inside pods or behind screens – will be able to continue, giving residents the chance to see more than just their nominated visitor.
The Department of Health said the relaxation of the restrictions represented a balance between the risk of infection and the importance of visiting for the mental and physical wellbeing of care home residents and their families.
Mr Hancock said: “I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
“This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step by step way in the future.”
The relaxation was welcomed by charity Age UK, whose director Caroline Abrahams said: “Hundreds of thousands of older people in care homes and their loved ones will sleep a little easier tonight, now they know the journey towards fully reopening care homes to visiting is to begin soon.”
However, Independent Care Group chairman Mike Padgham criticised the move.
“We must sound a note of caution because Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and we are caring for the most vulnerable and most susceptible to it”, he said.
“We need some clarification – for example, the announcement says holding hands will be allowed but warns against ‘close contact’. How is that going to be possible? There is going to have to be some very close but compassionate supervision of these visits.
“In truth, we might have preferred a more phased return to visiting with maybe a period of no contact visits followed by some careful contact.”