Care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive visitors outside from the end of next week, provided properties meet strict criteria and infection control measures remain in place.
Outdoor meetings will be with a single nominated visitor and face coverings will have to be worn during the visit. Currently, only essential visits, including end of life care, are permitted.
The next stage of the guidance (stage 2) builds up to a fourth and final phase of reintroduction that will include controlled indoor visits and wider use of communal areas by residents.
A care home will only be able to permit visiting or relax arrangements for communal activities if they have been Covid-free throughout the pandemic or if all affected residents have fully recovered and no residents have had symptoms for 28 days.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘Significant progress is being made and we are continuing to see improvements with fewer care homes currently having an infection. On that basis, we can now see a phased return to visiting in care homes when and where it is clinically safe to do so.
‘It is crucial that we do this incrementally and proceed with real caution to protect vulnerable residents and staff. Only outside visiting with a named key visitor using appropriate physical distancing and safety measures can be permitted from 3 July. When the scientific advice states that it is safe to do so, we can then gradually open up further visiting options.’
Robert Kilgour, Renaissance Care founder, told CM: ‘This is great news. We are very excited to be welcoming relatives back very soon and busy preparing for it. It is the beginning of the long road back.’
Scottish Care chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill wrote on twitter: ‘A very welcome step in balancing safety with the urgent need to restore relationships.’
As at Sunday 21 June, there had been 4,119 deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. Almost half (47%) of coronavirus deaths were related to care homes.