Care home residents will be allowed to have two visitors each week by the end of the year, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister told MPs that rapid turnaround tests, giving results in 30 minutes, will be deployed throughout the NHS and in care homes, meaning ‘people will once again be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones instead of waving at them through a window’.
Appearing via video link from coronavirus self-isolation in Downing Street, he said that every care home resident will be able to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week by the end of the year.
Carers looking after people in their own homes will also be offered weekly testing starting immediately, Mr Johnson added.
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The PM announced the reopening of non-essential shops, gyms, leisure facilities and hairdressers as well as the resumption of outdoor sports, weddings and collective worship.
However, he warned that without ‘sensible precautions we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge’.
Mr Johnson told the Commons: ‘I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.
‘We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.
‘So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we’re working with the devolved administrations on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom.’
He said families will need to make a ‘careful judgement’ about visiting elderly relatives over the festive period.
Mr Johnson went on: ‘This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.
‘We’ll be publishing guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how to manage the risks in each tier, as well as over Christmas.
‘As we work to supress the virus with these local tiers, two scientific breakthroughs will ultimately make these restrictions obsolete.
‘As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as quickly as possible.
‘But given that this can’t be done immediately, we will simultaneously use rapid turnaround testing that gives results within 30 minutes to identify those without symptoms so they can isolate and avoid transmission.
‘We’re beginning to deploy these tests in our NHS and in care homes in England, so people will once again be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones instead of waving at them through a window.
‘By the end of the year, this will allow every care home resident to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week.
‘Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today.
‘And from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.
‘We’re also using testing, as the house knows, to help schools and universities stay open and testing will enable students to know that they can go home safely for Christmas. And indeed back from home to university.’
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