Care home residents are now able to leave for “low risk” visits without isolating for 14 days on their return.
The change in coronavirus restrictions comes into force today, meaning residents will be able to leave their care home for a walk, or visit a loved one’s garden, and not face any restrictions when they get back.
However, they must follow social distancing and be accompanied by a member of staff throughout – or one of the two people who are their nominated visitors.
Some rules remain unchanged. Those attending medical appointments and going for overnight visits will still be subject to a 14-day isolation period.
They won’t be allowed to meet in groups, and can only go indoors for the use of toilets, or to cast a vote in the upcoming local elections.
Residents may also be able to eat outside at a restaurant with their care worker or a nominated visitor if this has been agreed with the care home in advance.
The change comes after a campaign by family members, who had threatened legal action against the government unless the blanket requirements were dropped.
Nicci Gerrard, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said: “Why did this rule ever exist in the first place – depriving people of their liberty, turning care homes into prison, treating one group of people with such cruelty.”
Fellow co-founder Julia Jones added: “It should never have been considered permissible to confine adult members of society, without their consent (or those who speak for them) merely because their address happens to be that of a care home.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has said the self-isolation requirements that remain in place for care home residents will be reviewed again when the next stage of the government’s roadmap is reached on 17 May.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “With the data continuing to head in the right direction and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way.”
And care minister Helen Whately added: “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.”
Data suggests 95% of elderly residents have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 71% have received two.
According to NHS England, more than nine in 10 people over the age of 45 have now received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine – with 120,000 appointments booked before 9am on Friday as vaccines opened up to those aged 40 and 41.
Latest figures on Monday evening showed just one death of a person who had tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, and 1,649 lab-confirmed cases.