Children and babies will be able to visit grandparents in care homes from next week – in many cases, for the first time in a year.
Care home residents in England will be able to receive two visitors indoors from next Monday 12 April in the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Boris Johnson has announced that care home visits are being extended from one person – allowed since early March – to two people and parents will be able to take babies and very young children.
"Reuniting family and friends has been a priority each time restrictions have eased, and the next step will be no different," the prime minister said.
"I’m particularly pleased to allow residents to have more visitors, including grandchildren, given the isolation and concern felt by so many this past year.
"Thanks to the tireless work of care home staff, and the success of the vaccine rollout, we’re able to increase the number of visits in a safe and controlled way."
Under the new arrangements, visitors will be asked to provide a negative test result and wear PPE during the visit to keep themselves, staff and residents safe.
And in the coming weeks, some visitors will be able to conduct coronavirus tests at home rather than at care homes to help manage the flow of visitors and allow more visits to take place.
The government says visitors who are parents will also be able to visit with babies and very young children, who will not count as one of the allotted guests.
And as a result, grandparents and great-grandparents will be able to meet the newest members of their families for the first time.
Care minister Helen Whately said: "Increasing care home visiting is a top priority as we ease COVID restrictions. I know just how much these visits mean to residents and their loved ones."
Welcoming the latest announcement, Fiona Carragher of the Alzheimer’s Society said: "Visits are vital to care home residents with dementia, who have been isolated from their loved ones, without the essential care and support their families so often provide, and as a result experienced a devastating increase in their dementia symptoms over the past year.
"We’ve come a long way since the first lockdown, and soon we hope to see the benefits from people with dementia being reunited with their loved ones."
Gil Chimon, manager of Vida Grange care home in Harrogate, said: "We’re really looking forward to more family members and friends being able to reunite with their loved ones."