Care home visitors urged to play their part in reducing risk of transmitting COVID-19

Anyone planning to visit their loved ones living in Herefordshire care homes from next week, when national lockdown measures begin to lift, is urged to ensure they follow the hands, face, space guidance meticulously prior to their visit. 

Although the vast majority of care home residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, they could still contract the virus and it is important visitors do everything in their power to reduce the risk of that happening.

Care home residents in Herefordshire will be allowed to have a named regular visitor indoors from next Monday (8 March).

The measure is part of the government’s gradual easing of the current COVID-19 lockdown and aims to strike a balance between the risk of infections occurring and the wellbeing benefits of personal visits for both residents and their families or a friend.

One nominated person will be allowed to visit a care home resident but will have to follow safety procedures including taking a rapid COVID-19 test (known as Lateral Flow Test) before entering the premises, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) during their stay, observing social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff, and any other infection control measures at the care home.

Residents will be allowed to hold the hands of their visitor but will be asked not to hug or kiss them in order to reduce the risk of infection.

Outdoor visits, pod and screen visits in care homes will continue where possible, giving residents the opportunity to see more than just their named visitor.

Each care home is expected to operate slightly different visiting arrangements due to the physical nature of each home and the level of demand for visits, but all are recommended to have a booking system for visitors and this means ad hoc or unannounced visits will not be possible. For more information about the arrangements, please contact the care home directly.

Please do not attend a care home if you have COVID-19 symptoms. These are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a change or loss of smell and/or taste. If you have any of these please immediately self-isolate and book a test online, by calling NHS 119 or ordering a home test.

All care home residents and social care staff were offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 15 February and scientists believe the vaccines offer a good level of immunity after three weeks.

This means all those accepting a vaccination are expected to have a good level of protection by 8 March. Having a vaccination is not a condition of visiting a relative in a care home but the government strongly recommends that all visitors take the opportunity to be vaccinated when they are invited through the national programme.

If there is a COVID-19 outbreak in a care home, visits will be suspended until it is safe for them to resume.

Herefordshire Council’s Director for Adults and Communities Stephen Vickers said:

“We know how important visits are to care home residents in Herefordshire and we welcome this cautious first step.

“If everyone follows the government guidance, which is designed to protect our most vulnerable residents, we hope to enable steady and safe progress towards greater access to loved ones in care and eventually see families reunited. 

“We know people are very keen to see their relatives and, while the vast majority of care home residents have had one dose of their COVID-19 vaccination, it is still possible for them to catch the virus.

“I want to stress how important it is for visitors, prior to their visit, to take all possible precautions to reduce the risk of them carrying the virus into a care home and passing it on. This means following the hand, face, space guidance rigorously.”

At the second stage of the lockdown lifting, the government will look carefully at the effectiveness of the vaccine for people living in care homes as well as levels of infection in the local community - especially of any new variants. It will take a decision at that point on extending the number of visitors to two per resident.

To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands. Face. Space.

  • Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home - use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.

More detailed information about care home visiting is available on the government website.

Published: 5th March 2021