Joy as Norfolk care home residents to be able to to visit family
- Credit: Iceni House
Care home residents across Norfolk and Suffolk will be able to leave to visit a friend or family member without having to isolate on their return, the government has announced.
From Tuesday (May 4), care home residents will be able to visit a friend or a family member's garden, or go on walks in places like parks, public gardens and beaches.
It follows the first phase of lockdown easing restrictions in March when care home residents were able to nominate one visitor to enter the home for regular visits.
The news announced by the government today (Saturday, May 1) has been welcomed by families and care home operators in the region.
Mike Adams, 70, from East Bilney whose 96-year-old mother Johanna is a care home resident Iceni House in Swaffham said it was "great news".
He said: "I think she was talking about wanting to try and get home just for a day to see the old house.
"We were talking about this a week or so ago and I told her I don't know if we will be able to do that.
"But thought when it gets a bit warmer I was going to raise this with the care home and see what the response was but this is fantastic news.
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"It gives you that little bit more freedom because she's been in there for the past seven months."
Mr Adams said the care home had been "fantastic" and had been trying to do what they could to make things easier for both residents and family members.
But he said now, with the vaccination programme in place and doing well, was the time to allow greater freedoms to those in care homes so as not to damage people's mental health.
He said: "This will make a difference now.
"I will be in to get her out for a day and out for some fresh air.
"I'm sure if I suggest we go out she will love it.
"She will love that."
Steve Dorrington, who runs care homes in Dereham, Watton and Wells-next-the-sea said he welcomed the news.
He said: "It's been such a long time since people were able to go out or see their loved ones.
"There will have to be checks and balances and will be a joint effort between us and the family for the sake of the residents.
"It would be lovely to get back to normal and this would be the first step towards that."
Residents must be accompanied by either a care worker of nominated visitor and follow the government guidelines of washing hands regularly, keeping social distance and remaining outside.
The changes come as the data shows cases continuing to fall meaning it is now much safer for care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, to leave their homes.
Keeping visits outdoors will ensure any risk is minimised as much as possible.
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."
Raj Sehgal, owner and managing director or West Norfolk-based Arms Care, said the announcement was positive news but insisted care homes needed "more time for us to prepare".
He said: "It's all very positive. I welcome anything that returns society closer to a sense of normality."
Helen Whatley, minister for care, said: "I know residents and their families have found the restrictions on trips out of care homes incredibly difficult.
"This is one more step towards getting back to normal, while protecting care homes from the continued risk of Covid-19".