Can I visit a relative in a care home during the national lockdown?

Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown in a bid to fight back a surge in coronavirus cases. Under the rules, people in England may not leave the house except in limited circumstances. For Britain's care home residents and their families, the new restrictions are a cruel blow after a tough and lonely year. Here is everything we know about how the new rules will affect care homes. What are the new rules? Close-contact indoor visits in care homes will not be allowed to take place across England during the coronavirus lockdown. However, visits involving screens, pods and through windows will be able to go ahead. These rules are the same as the Tier 4 restrictions that affected millions of Britons. Care homes with outbreaks of the coronavirus will not be allowed to receive visitors. Care homes in areas with lower transmission rates have been able to use rapid result coronavirus tests to help them enable close-contact visits. Read more: What the new lockdown rules mean for you What about essential visits? Some visits, such as end-of-life visits, will be able to continue. Can care home residents leave the home to visit their family? Yes. However, the Government says that any residents leaving their care home for a visit to see friends and family will not be able to meet them indoors, for example in the family home. Read more: Covid and the care home: my father’s grim reality on the ground Do people in care homes need to shield? People deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable”, which means they are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, have been ordered to shield once again. It echoes advice first issued in the initial March lockdown and latterly applied in Tier 4 areas. When will care home residents get the vaccine? The Prime Minister has pledged that the NHS will vaccinate all over-70s and vulnerable people by mid-February – 13.2 million people – which would protect the health service from becoming overwhelmed. All care home residents and their carers will also be vaccinated by this date, Mr Johnson said. Read more: The priority list for vaccines – and how they will be rolled out When can in-person visits resume? The new restrictions will be in place until at least the middle of February, which puts an even greater strain on vulnerable people in care homes, many of whom have not seen their loved ones for several months. Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, said: "The move away from close-contact visits is a terrible blow for residents across the country. "However it is very important and positive that visiting remains firmly on the agenda and homes across the country will be working hard with loved ones to ensure wherever possible visits can continue." Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer's Society, said many residents have still not been able to properly see or hug their loved ones. The charity is calling for the Government to "act with compassion" and prioritise the safe continuation of meaningful visits. She said: "After a dreadful year for people with dementia, worst hit by the virus, we are still having to stress that mental health plays as much of a role in people's survival as physical. "The large majority of people in care homes with dementia do not have time on their side. Contact with their families isn't just for comfort but fundamental to their care - and most important of all, their reason for living."

Can I visit a relative in a care home during the national lockdown?

Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown in a bid to fight back a surge in coronavirus cases.

Under the rules, people in England may not leave the house except in limited circumstances.

For Britain's care home residents and their families, the new restrictions are a cruel blow after a tough and lonely year.

Here is everything we know about how the new rules will affect care homes.

What are the new rules?

Close-contact indoor visits in care homes will not be allowed to take place across England during the coronavirus lockdown.

However, visits involving screens, pods and through windows will be able to go ahead.

These rules are the same as the Tier 4 restrictions that affected millions of Britons.

Care homes with outbreaks of the coronavirus will not be allowed to receive visitors.

Care homes in areas with lower transmission rates have been able to use rapid result coronavirus tests to help them enable close-contact visits.

Read more: What the new lockdown rules mean for you

What about essential visits?

Some visits, such as end-of-life visits, will be able to continue.

Can care home residents leave the home to visit their family?

Yes. However, the Government says that any residents leaving their care home for a visit to see friends and family will not be able to meet them indoors, for example in the family home.

Read more: Covid and the care home: my father’s grim reality on the ground

Do people in care homes need to shield?

People deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable”, which means they are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, have been ordered to shield once again.

It echoes advice first issued in the initial March lockdown and latterly applied in Tier 4 areas.

When will care home residents get the vaccine?

The Prime Minister has pledged that the NHS will vaccinate all over-70s and vulnerable people by mid-February – 13.2 million people – which would protect the health service from becoming overwhelmed.

All care home residents and their carers will also be vaccinated by this date, Mr Johnson said.

Read more: The priority list for vaccines – and how they will be rolled out

When can in-person visits resume?

The new restrictions will be in place until at least the middle of February, which puts an even greater strain on vulnerable people in care homes, many of whom have not seen their loved ones for several months.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, said: "The move away from close-contact visits is a terrible blow for residents across the country.

"However it is very important and positive that visiting remains firmly on the agenda and homes across the country will be working hard with loved ones to ensure wherever possible visits can continue."

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer's Society, said many residents have still not been able to properly see or hug their loved ones. The charity is calling for the Government to "act with compassion" and prioritise the safe continuation of meaningful visits.

She said: "After a dreadful year for people with dementia, worst hit by the virus, we are still having to stress that mental health plays as much of a role in people's survival as physical.

"The large majority of people in care homes with dementia do not have time on their side. Contact with their families isn't just for comfort but fundamental to their care - and most important of all, their reason for living."