CARE home visits can only take place outdoors, through windows or in personal protect equipment covered pods during lockdown.
The heartbreaking news for many Brits comes with a glimmer of hope, as the Department of Health announced it was developing trials to let family and friends be tested regularly so they can visit.
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New guidance for care homes in England released today has said residents should be allowed to have visits from loved ones – but stressed these must happen with strict social distancing.
Earlier this year, coronavirus ripped through care homes, and family and friends were unable to visit at all and forced to stand outside windows just to catch a glimpse of residents.
The new guidance allows for visits but the stringent rules mean residents will be deprived of hugs.
It is in place until the end of national lockdown measures, which Boris Johnson has vowed will be on December 2.
The Department of Health said visits could take place using “Covid-secure pods” with floor to ceiling transparent screens separating residents.
Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society Kate Lee labelled these pods “prison style screens” between families and residents.
Residents and visitors should have to enter through different doors – and won’t be able to touch at any time to limit the risk of spreading coronavirus into care homes.
She said the new guidance is “devastating” and “completely misses the point”.
‘PRISON STYLE’ SCREENS
Ms Lee said: “The prison style screens the government proposes – with people speaking through phones – are frankly ridiculous when you consider someone with advanced dementia can often be bed-bound and struggling to speak.
“They won’t understand and will be distressed by what’s going on around them.”
People will also be allowed to see their loved ones through windows of care homes, or where visitors stay in their car, and the resident stays two metres away.
Brits in England will also be able to see people outdoors, but as the temperature plummets it is unlikely elderly and vulnerable people will be able to stay outdoors for long stretches of time.
In green shoots of hope for more personal meetings, without being separated by a screen, officials said plans are being developed to let specific family and friends visit after testing negative.
It comes as a new national programme is launched to test professionals who work in care homes regularly, such as community nurses and physiotherapists.
Matt Hancock said today: “I know how heart-breaking and incredibly frustrating it has been for families and friends who haven’t been able to see their loved ones during the pandemic.”
“It is vital high quality, compassionate care and infection control remains at the heart of every single care home to protect staff and resident’s lives, but we must allow families to reunite in the safest way possible.”
And Care Minister Helen Whately acknowledged the “truly heart-breaking” consequences of visitors not being able to see loved ones during lockdown.
And she said the new trails to put testing in place would help “give families more opportunities to spend time with relatives in care homes”.