Care home visits unlikely to ‘completely go back to normal’ at Step 4

Care home visiting is unlikely to “completely go back to normal” following the final stage of the road map out of lockdown, the care minister has said.

There will still need to be some precautions for residents receiving visitors when coronavirus restrictions are further eased, on what has been widely dubbed Freedom Day, said Helen Whately.

The unlocking is due to begin on July 19 if the Government’s “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met.

Ms Whately told Sky News: “We will be taking some more steps as part of Step 4 of the road map.

“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.”

Ms Whately told Times Radio Breakfast that she expects the requirement of face masks in health and care settings to continue.

It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required in many settings.

She said: “I’ll be looking at the guidance, I’ll be making a judgment, 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.”

Later on Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give a press conference setting out how he plans to “restore people’s freedoms” at the next stage.

This will include an update on care home visits.

Currently, residents in England are able to receive visits from up to five named relatives and friends, with a maximum of two visitors at any one time or day.

This can include an essential caregiver to provide additional care and support who can continue visiting, even if the home has a Covid-19 outbreak.

Residents can leave the home for visits to see family and friends, including overnight stays and activities such as attending day centres, medical appointments and education.

But they must self-isolate for 14 days on their return to the home after overnight stays in hospital and other visits out which are assessed as “high-risk”.

The director of 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.”