New guidance allowing families to be reunited with their loved ones in care homes has been welcomed by MP Bob Seely.
Under the new rules, families will be able to visit their relatives in care homes during lockdown in Covid-secure visiting areas which could involve the introduction of measures such as floor to ceiling screens, visiting pods and window visits.
The Government says the guidance will enable care home providers, families and local professionals to work together to find the right balance between the benefits of visiting on wellbeing and quality of life, and the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to social care staff and vulnerable residents.
Trials are set to begin later this month which will support specific family and friends to visit care homes supported by testing.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “I am determined to bring loved ones back together even during this second wave of the pandemic; that’s why I am advising care homes to enable COVID-secure visits across the country.
“We are also working to trial testing for visitors, so that we can reduce the risk of indoor visits and give families more opportunities to spend time with relatives in care homes.
“We must get the balance right between reuniting families and ensuring care staff and residents are safe from COVID-19.”
Mr Seely said: “I welcome these new measures which will reunite families in the safest way possible.
“Care home staff, residents and their families have faced some particularly tough challenges in these past few months. We have heard stories of care home staff moving into care homes to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, and we have heard some heart-breaking stories where families have not been able to say their goodbyes in person, or have not seen their loved ones since March.
“Having visited an Isle of Wight care home last week I can see how hard it has been and I thank all care home staff for the dedication and commitment they have shown to their residents throughout the pandemic.”
Ian Bennett, Director of the Isle of Wight Care Partnership said: "We welcome the news that there will be no blanket ban on visiting within care homes, visiting is essential to the health and wellbeing of all our residents, particularly those with dementia.
“We also welcome the news of the trial of testing for key visitors in care homes which will hopefully allow us to resume more normal visiting soon.”
The Government said a new national programme for weekly testing of professionals who regularly visit care homes, including community nurses and physiotherapists, will also be rolled out in the coming weeks following a successful pilot in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Northamptonshire.
In addition, 11,000 iPad tablets, worth £7.5 million, will soon be distributed to thousands of care homes across England to help residents keep in touch with loved ones.