A rule forcing care home residents who go on any sort of outside visit to then spend two weeks in their room is being scrapped, the government has announced.
Campaigners have hailed the reversal, with one group saying the regulation had turned “care homes into prisons”.
Under new guidance to begin from Tuesday, people living in care homes in England will not have to self-isolate if they leave the home to be in the garden of a relative or friend, or to visit outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches.
They must be accompanied by either a care worker or a named visitor, and must socially distance when away from the home. They cannot meet in groups, as currently permitted for others outside, and can go indoors only to use toilets.
The full guidance has not yet been set out, and could vary for areas with high or fast-rising levels of coronavirus infection, or the presence of variants of the virus being monitored by the government.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said “I know residents and their families have found the restrictions on trips out of care homes incredibly difficult. This is one more step towards getting back to normal, while protecting care homes from the continued risk of COVID-19.
“As part of this interim update before the next stage of the roadmap, care home residents will be able to leave to spend time outdoors. I know this has been long awaited for those who haven’t had a chance to enjoy trips out. I look forward to encouraging more visiting and trips out in future as we turn the tide on this cruel virus.”
It is a positive move as care homes residents are allowed more out-of-home visits.
The government says a fall in Covid cases means it is “much safer” for care home residents to go outside.
Under the changes in England, residents on trips out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors and they must follow social distancing throughout.
They cannot meet in groups or go indoors, except for the use of toilets, and public transport should be avoided where possible.
An exemption is in place for those who wish to vote in person in the local elections on 6 May, the government says.
Only trips deemed “low risk” are exempt from the self-isolation rule, so this does not include activities such as overnight visits.