This is wonderful news for families everywhere: Minister of State for Social Care HELEN WHATELY hails decision to allow families to hug elderly loved ones in care homes this Christmas
Conservative MP and Minister of State for Social Care Helen Whately
Of all of the sacrifices people have made to control the virus, not seeing loved ones in care homes has been one of the hardest.
The fight against coronavirus has been so painful because the virus thrives on the social contacts that we all cherish.
Christmas is of course a time for family and a time for coming together.
After a year in which we have all made so many sacrifices, we want to support as much social contact as we can safely allow during the festive season.
Throughout this pandemic, our first priority has rightly been protecting people most at risk from the virus, including those who live and work in care homes.
We know that some of the visiting restrictions that we have introduced have been tough, and we have been determined to support visits as soon as we were able to do so safely.
The amazing strides we have seen in testing have allowed us to perform more regular testing in care homes, which is an important step in helping us to reunite families and allowing people to see their loved ones once again.
Over the past few months we have seen promising trials of lateral flow tests, which can produce results in as little as 30 minutes.
As we roll out these tests more widely, we are rightly prioritising the social care sector.
Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans. Pictured, Dave Stallard at his care home in West Sussex being visited by his wife Irene
We will send more than one million lateral flow tests to care homes this month.
Using these tests, we are now in a position to enable up to two visitors per resident to see their loved one twice a week.
As ever, we are working closely with the sector and final decisions about how many visits can be safely allowed rest with the care home which knows their residents and settings best.
However, testing on its own is not enough. It must be used alongside PPE and excellent infection control procedures in place in care homes to reduce the risk as much as we possibly can while allowing visits to go ahead.
We are sending 46million items of free PPE to care home providers to boost the equipment they already have available.
Care home visits have been tightly regulated all year to try and reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 (Pictured: A woman visits her step-father at a home in Cornwall)
This year has been so hard for so many.
I know this news will be welcomed by care home residents and their loved ones, and I wish them all the best as they celebrate Christmas together.
I would like to thank the Daily Mail and all its readers for their campaign and for so powerfully telling the stories of those affected by Covid restrictions.