Bedford’s network of care homes are “poised” to allow the return of indoor visits on March 8.
A council meeting heard that care homes are already making preparations to allow one named person to meet with a loved one and hold hands as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Visitors will have to pass a lateral flow test before being allowed in, to reduce the risk of passing on the coronavirus to vulnerable people.
The adult services overview and scrutiny committee also heard that outdoor visits using pods and screens will still be allowed, which gives care home residents that chance to see another loved on.
Kate Walker, the council’s director of adult services, told Tuesday’s meeting: “It is great news for residents who haven’t seen their relatives face to face for some time.
“Outdoor pod and screen visits mean that residents can see an additional person, unless there is an outbreak which means all visits have to cease as they do now.”
She said that the council and care homes are waiting for further detailed guidance on the new visiting arrangements but “services are poised and are working already making preparations.”
Giving visitors lateral flow tests will have to be administered by the care homes and the visitors will have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Hugging and kissing will not be allowed.
The named person cannot be changed but care homes will have discretion to allow more than one named visitor in exceptional circumstances.
The meeting was also given an update on the progress of vaccinations in care homes.
Ms Walker said the vaccination of residents has been successful, including in care homes with people who have learning disabilities.
The situation with staff vaccinations is less clear, although the meeting was told that there is “some hesitancy” among staff.
The council is working with public health officials, the health service and employers to “work through any myths or issues”.
Councillors were told that the risks of residents catching covid from infected staff is “much minimised” by them having regular tests, and by the wearing of PPE.
Ms Walker added that having to carry out tests on named visitors poses a “large logistical dilemma” but residential care homes have had time to prepare.
“It is a big undertaking and the administration of it is very important.”
Chairing the meeting Cllr Roger Rigby (Cons, Bromham & Biddenham) led praise for the council’s teams, saying his is proud of the way they have managed not only the winter period but during the covid crisis.