Visits to care homes could be allowed to resume before residents receive their second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Speaking to Sky News, Social Care Minister Helen Whately said she is ‘determined’ to restart face-to-face visits as the UK’s third national lockdown eases.
She said she wants to see a return to in-person visits when England’s Covid-19 lockdown is eased and for families to be able to hold hands with their vulnerable relatives.
‘What I want to do as we come out of the national lockdown is also increase the amount of visiting.
‘I don’t see that we have to wait for the second vaccination dose, I want us to open up sooner than that.
‘But I will say with this and generally, as we come out of lockdown, we do have to be cautious.
‘I’m determined so that we can see people go back to be able to hold hands again and to see somebody who you haven’t been able to see very much in the last few months and over the last year.
‘I really want to make that happen again.’
This comes as the Prime Minister plans to unveil his roadmap for easing the national lockdown in England on February 22.
The National Care Forum said an essential component of the plans must include reuniting families with their loved ones in care homes.
The National Care Forum (NCF) has joined with Age UK, the Relatives and Residents Association, John’s Campaign, Rights for Residents and the Registered Nursing Homes Association to call on the government to resume care home visits by March 1.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF said: ‘Many care homes have continued to offer visiting throughout the pandemic, balancing risks with the need to retain ongoing family contact.
‘However, all care homes must now be better supported to enable meaningful visiting and the NCF together with a number of organisations are calling on the government to ensure that by 1 March 2021, essential caregivers can, once again, visit their loved ones in care homes.
‘Many family members quite understandably want to be reunited with their loved ones as soon as possible and this must be a priority in the roadmap to ease out of the lockdown.
‘If dates have been set for the opening of bars and pubs, restaurants, schools and other industries, then the same effort and resolve must be given to opening up care homes to reunite families.
‘As an integral part of the roadmap out of lockdown, it is vital that all parties address the barriers that are in place around making it possible for essential caregivers to once again be a part of care home life.
‘This must extend to all people receiving care and support in different care settings, so they too can look forward to being reunited with their families and friends.
‘Providers have worked incredibly hard to keep visiting as available as possible through the strictures of ever-changing guidance, and this is a moment where we pull out all the stops to make visiting happen.’
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