UK Allows Outdoor Family Visits for Care Home Residents as COVID-19 Rules Ease

May 1, 2021 Updated: May 1, 2021

Care home residents will be able to spend time with family members in “low risk” visits without having to isolate on their return, the UK government announced on Saturday after being threatened with legal action.

From May 4, residents will be able to leave their care homes to visit a friend or family member’s garden, or go on walks in parks, public gardens, and beaches, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a press release.

Commenting on the new loosening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We know how challenging this time has been for care home residents, so I am pleased that they can now leave their homes to reunite with their loved ones outdoors.

“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.”

The DHSC said it is now much safer for care home residents to leave their homes with CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases continuing to fall.

But they must be accompanied by either a care worker or nominated visitor, and follow the government guidelines of washing hands regularly, keeping social distance, and remaining outside.

The DHSC stressed that the visits should take place “solely outdoors, except for the use of toilet facilities, with no visits to indoor spaces (public or private) and avoiding the use of public transport where possible.”

The DHSC removed the restrictions on outdoor, “low risk” visits after being threatened with legal action by the charity John’s Campaign.

Campaigners said the rule encourages care homes to act unlawfully by “falsely imprisoning” residents, with family members calling it “barbaric.”

John’s Campaign co-founder Julia Jones said the rule change did not go far enough, saying it was “massively inadequate” that the isolation requirement remains for those who leave to visit the doctor.

“I still struggle to see what legal right the government thinks it has for preventing people with full mental capacity from walking out of their homes the same as every other member of the population. I struggle to see why they should be under surveillance,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

PA contributed to this report.