Care home residents are to be allowed a regular visitor next month who they can spend time with indoors.
The scheme will allow one named individual to enter the care home, where they will be allowed to hold hands with a relative, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
However they’re advised to avoid close contact.
The move is a step forward in bringing families back together, and comes as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Visitors will be tested for coronavirus before entry, and will have to wear PPE. The rule comes into force on March 8.
Meanwhile, outdoor, pod and screen visits will be able to continue in line with the published guidance, meaning there will be chances for residents to see more than just the one person they nominate.
It comes after restrictions on visits have been in place during the national lockdown to protect vulnerable residents.
While coronavirus cases remain high, the number of infections is falling – and the UK’s vaccination programme has seen every care home resident offered a jab, with more almost 17 million vaccinations carried out in total.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
“This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step by step way in the future.”
All visitors will receive a lateral flow test and be required to follow all infection prevention and control measures.
These measures ‘represent a balance between the risk of infections and the importance of visiting for the physical and mental wellbeing of residents and their families’, the Department of Health states.
Professor Deborah Sturdy, chief nurse for adult social care, said: “I know how much people want to visit, hug and kiss their loved ones but doing so can put lives at risk so we would ask people to continue to follow the rules.
“This is a first step towards resuming indoor visits and we all hope to be able to take further steps in the future.
“I am pleased as a result of so many people following the rules we are in a position to increase visits and hope this is just the start.”
Close contact care will be restricted to visitors who provide assistance – such as help dressing, eating or washing.
Existing guidance already enables these visits under exceptional circumstances.
The Department of Health said they are giving extra support to these essential visitors by providing them with the same regular PCR testing regime and PPE arrangements as care home workers.
All care home providers not experiencing an outbreak will be asked to follow the updated guidance and continue to work together with families and local professionals to ensure visits are possible while continuing to limit the risk of transmission of Covid-19, the statement added.