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Covid in Wales: Care home visiting restrictions eased

This article was taken from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-57217470

By BBC Health news

 

Many families and friends will be able to visit loved ones inside care homes in Wales and hold their hand for the first time in over a year.

 

Until now only two designated visitors could make visits indoors, due to guidance set by the Welsh government.

 

From Monday, changes in guidance allow anyone to visit, but residents can only see two people at a time.

 

However it is down to individual care homes and local authorities to decide whether to allow visits.

 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the changes would “improve the quality of life for residents and their families”.

 

The changes – which come as Covid case rates continue to fall – will allow care homes for adults and children to open their doors to more relatives and friends.

 

Many people have been unable to visit family and friends in care homes since indoor visits were halted at the start of the pandemic, with some only able to see residents through windows.

 

Relatives had criticised the restrictions as cruel, with children and partners describing how they were unable to hold their loved one’s hand or reassure them in the months before they died.

 

While outdoor visits have been permitted since last summer, local lockdown rules and outbreaks meant many care homes temporarily stopped people visiting.

 

Indoor visits by one designated person have only been allowed since 13 March.

 

On 26 April, as beer gardens and outdoor cafes reopened, visiting guidance was eased, allowing two people to visit a care home resident indoors at the same time.

 

However, under the rules these had to be designated visitors, meaning the same two people had to visit every time.

 

Under the new guidance, any two people will now be able to visit inside at a time, after having a negative Covid test.

 

It comes as more than one million people received both doses of their Covid vaccine in Wales, with the weekly infection rate now standing at 9.7 cases for every 100,000 people.

 

While visitors can hold their relative’s hand, they have to wear face masks, unless they are socially distanced from residents and in a well-ventilated room.

 

Babies and very young infants do not count towards the visitor limit, but the Welsh government is advising them not to visit indoors due to social distancing concerns.

 

There are no limits to the numbers of people able to visit outside.

 

Friends and family are also now allowed to take animals in to care homes for visits.

 

‘I fear he will give up’

 

Prydwen Elfed-Owens has only been able to be in the same room as her husband twice during the pandemic, and has been talking to him through a window.

 

Her husband Tom, who has dementia, has not been outside his care home in St Asaph, Denbighshire, for the past 18 months.

 

Although they have both had two doses of the Covid vaccine, Mrs Elfed-Owens has only been allowed by the care home to visit him face-to-face twice.

 

She said the vaccines and tests before visits were pointless, adding: “We still can’t go anywhere near a person who needs affection, now more than any time, at all.”

 

Mrs Elfed-Owens said she feared her husband would also “give up” if restrictions at the home did not change.

 

The care home declined to comment and the Welsh government said, while it encouraged all care home providers to allow indoor visits, visiting rules were down to the individual care home.

 

“Care homes should do this in a way that minimises risk to residents and visitors based on a dynamic risk assessment of the circumstances of the individual care home, and the people living there,” a spokesperson said.

 

Care Forum Wales, which represents health and social care providers, said the guidelines were clear, and that while homes wanted to allow visits by relatives, they must also assess the risks.