Care home visits will not “completely go back to normal” after the final stage of England’s roadmap out of COVID restrictions, a minister has said.
Social care minister Helen Whately said the country is “on track” to ease restrictions on 19 July in line with the government’s plan but warned that there will still have to be “some precautions” around care homes.
Her comments come ahead of a Downing Street news conference by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 5pm in which he is due to set out how the government will “restore people’s freedoms”.
His update is expected to include details on care home visits.
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Whately said: “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.”
Later during the morning broadcast round, Ms Whately hinted that the requirement of face masks in health and care settings will continue.
It is expected that wearing face masks will become a “personal choice” in most settings.
At present, care home residents in England can have visits from up to five named relatives or friends, but only two individuals can visit at any one time or day.
Residents can leave care homes to see loved ones, which can include overnight stays, without having to self-isolate on return.
However, they must self-isolate for 14 days when returning from an overnight stay in a hospital.
Last month, then health secretary Matt Hancock announced that coronavirus vaccines will be made compulsory for care home staff.
New legislation will mean from October, subject to parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period, anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The rule will not apply to those who have a medical exemption.
The move comes as ministers look to reduce the spread of coronavirus in care homes and hospitals by staff who are infected as the country opens up and cases of the Delta variant rise.
There have been more than 40,000 deaths involving COVID in care homes in England during the pandemic to date.