“I’m particularly pleased to allow residents to have more visitors, including grandchildren, given the isolation and concern felt by so many this past year.
“Thanks to the tireless work of care home staff, and the success of the vaccine rollout, we’re able to increase the number of visits in a safe and controlled way.”
At present, care home residents are only permitted one visitor but the limit is to be doubled. Visitors will continue to be asked to provide a negative Covid test result and wear personal protective clothing during the visit.
They could be allowed to take tests in their own homes ahead of visits to increase the numbers catching up with relatives.
The PM’s decision to give the go-ahead to the new rules for care homes follows widespread falls in the coronavirus infection rate and the rollout of vaccinations to care home staff.
The Department of Health and Social Care said visitors would be allowed to hold hands but that PPE must be worn.
Care minister Helen Whately said: “Increasing care home visiting is a top priority as we ease Covid restrictions. I know just how much these visits mean to residents and their loved ones.
“I’m pleased we were able to introduce more meaningful visits to care homes in March.
“Seeing friends and family reunited has been incredibly moving.
“Thank you to all of our amazing care workers for helping to make this possible.
“We want to go further, so we’re allowing more visitors at this next stage – and our aim is to make visiting to care homes as normal as possible by the summer.
“We know how cruel this virus can be in care homes so we must continue to follow the science and data, but things are looking up.”
Charities working with dementia care welcomed the move as a boost for residents.
Fiona Carragher, director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’re so pleased two named visitors will be able to have meaningful close contact visits with loved ones in care homes from April 12.
“Visits are vital to care home residents with dementia, who have been isolated from their loved ones.
“Without the essential care and support their families so often provide, they experienced a devastating increase in their dementia symptoms over the past year.
“We’ve come a long way since the first lockdown, and soon we hope to see the benefits from people with dementia being reunited with their loved ones.
“As infection rates continue to drop and more people get vaccinated, we hope care homes will be able to safely open up further. It’s essential that an individual’s circumstances are considered, and care homes do what they can to ensure the needs of all residents are met. If you are finding it difficult to visit a care home, contact Alzheimer’s Society for support.”
All homes will be expected to follow the guidance as long as they are not managing a Covid outbreak on the premises. Gil Chimon, home manager at the Vida Grange care home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said: “The reopening of care homes to one visitor per resident from March 8 was a fantastic morale boost which was welcomed by staff and families alike.
“We’ve seen some incredibly emotional scenes of families reconnecting with their loved ones which has been very humbling.
“The planned extension of the number of visitors to two per resident from April 12 is an exciting step in our journey back to normality. We’re really looking forward to more family members and friends being able to reunite with their loved ones.”
Ministers recently announced £341million to support continued infection control measures and extended rapid testing and free PPE at care homes.
The latest Government vaccination data up to April 1 shows 36.2 million jabs have now been given.