FAMILIES will finally be allowed to spend time with their loved ones in care homes but hugs and kisses will still be banned under new government guidance.
The Health Secretary yesterday ended the ban in England, admitting it had been “painful” time for those who have been separated since March.
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But under the new rules, care home residents can be reunited with just one family member.
It means many residents will be forced to choose between being reunited with their spouse or children.
Families will have to book visits in advance, wash their hands and wear face masks throughout their stay.
Official guidance also warns visitors to avoid all hugs and handshakes, and socially distance wherever possible.
Friends and family will not be able to wear hats or take flowers, but will be allowed to bring boxes of chocolates as the packaging can be sanitised.
Brits were banned from seeing vulnerable loved ones inside residential homes in late March – although many shut their doors earlier.
But now it will be up to local health bosses to decide whether visits are allowed and what safety steps are needed to reduce infection risk.
Announcing the change in rules, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how painful it has been for those in care homes not being able to receive visits from their loved ones throughout this period.
“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.
“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.”
Care homes can allow different family members to visit residents on separate occasions, but are being discouraged from doing so.
Due to a delay in the guidance, some providers have already started letting families see their loved ones in outdoors areas since June.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, welcomed the new rules.
She said: “They have been long awaited by our members and the sector as a whole. There will be many happy meetings as those in care are reunited with loved ones separated by Covid.
“The care sector has remained far ahead of government on the reopening of care settings. Many have been arranging socially distanced visits for weeks now, using the protocol we developed, in lieu of any government guidance.”
Care England, the country’s largest representative body for independent social care providers, said it was “disappointed” the Government guidelines had come so late.
And said the new rules fail to cover residents being taken on day trips by their loved ones.
Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “This guidance should have been with care providers last month.
“We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector.”