The Prime Minister has published the government’s COVID Winter Plan, which will include care homes being able to permit family visits over Christmas by testing relatives for COVID-19.
Families and loved ones wanting to visit relatives in care homes will have to make certain they test negative for coronavirus and wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow infection control measures throughout their visit.
The plan states: ‘If a visitor has a negative test, is wearing appropriate PPE, and follows other infection control measures, then it will be possible for visitors to have physical contact with their loved one, such as providing personal care, holding hands and hugging.
‘The government wants to bring an end to the pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together in a way that recognises the risks but enables these to be managed in the best way possible.’
Testing of residents will also be increased in December to once a week.
The Winter plan sets out the end of national restrictions and the steps ministers will take to help bring life back to normal by Spring.
The plan seeks to bring R below 1, find new ways of managing the virus and enabling life to return closer to normal, and minimise damage to the economy and society.
The collective effort during national restrictions has brought the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressure on the NHS – meaning national restrictions will end on 2 December.
England will move back into a regional, tiered approach – safeguarding the gains made, and using scientific advances in vaccination, treatments and testing to enable life gradually to return closer to normal by Spring.
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “There is a lot of progress and reasons to be positive, however, there are certainly a lot of challenges, some easier than others.
“The news about visiting is positive, but again an array of issues that need to be thought through and we cannot be too hasty with people’s lives at stake.”
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘After eight harrowing months filled with devastation and tragic loss of life, we’re relieved that the Prime Minister has recognised the importance of family carers allowing up to two visitors per resident, tested twice a week. However, we need to keep up momentum with weekly updates on the testing pilot as it mustn’t be used as an excuse to delay national rollout – people shouldn’t have to wait until Christmas.
Every day we hear from families who would give anything to hold their loved one close and look into their eyes – one gentleman we spoke to hasn’t held his wife since March.
‘We have to put a stop to people with dementia tragically dying from loneliness – you can’t put a price on the gift of a hug and smile from someone you love, but for people with advanced dementia it’s often the only way they can communicate.’
You can read the full COVID Winter Plan here.