The health secretary has announced a “cautious, phased return” to the resumption of care home visits from next month.
Jeane Freeman said “significant progress” has been made in tackling the virus in care homes, allowing residents to receive visitors outdoors from July 3.
However, in the guidance issued on Thursday, a care home will only be able to permit outdoor visiting if they have had no Covid-19 cases or have been Covid-19 free for 28 days.
The move will allow access to a single nominated visitor, with face coverings worn for the majority of the visit.
Currently, only essential visits, including those involving end of life care, are permitted.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus, the health secretary said “necessary restrictions” had been introduced during the pandemic, which had been “both difficult and distressing for people living in care homes, for their loved ones and their staff”.
Ms Freeman added: “Significant progress has been made and we have seen improvements in the number of care homes with ongoing infections, to the extent that we can now see a cautious phased return to visiting in care homes when and where it is clinically safe to do so.
“It’s crucial that we do this incrementally and proceed with caution to protect residents and staff.
“I know this will be important, and I hope welcome news, for family and friends with loved ones in care homes.”
In a letter to registered care home providers, Ms Freeman said the 28-day period from the last symptoms of any resident is twice the extreme incubation period for the virus and given the possibility of asymptomatic carriage, is the safest estimate of when a home could be declared ‘outbreak free’.
She added that the Scottish Government will consider gradually opening up further visiting options, once the scientific and clinical advice is clear that it is safe to do so.
The next stage would be followed by indoor visits of one key visitor and garden visits with multiple visitors and a relaxation of measures around communal activity with appropriate measures still being observed.
The final stage would be controlled indoor and outdoor visiting.
It’s crucial that we do this incrementally and proceed with caution to protect residents and staff.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman
The health secretary also confirmed that she hopes to give more details next week on the phased reintroduction of visiting for those staying in hospital, or other healthcare settings.
Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, said it has been a “long and painful wait” for care home residents across the north-east to receive visitors again.
He added: “These residents have had to endure a tragic time during extremely difficult circumstances.
“Many in care homes will have had to isolate themselves, resulting in no human contact – something which is extremely hard to cope with.
“The SNP Government must now stick to this deadline to allow families separated for months during coronavirus a much-needed chance to reunite with their loved ones.”
Dundee East City East MSP Shona Robison also welcomed news that care home residents can soon reunite with family and loved ones.
She said: “For so many people coping with the restrictions put in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a hugely trying and emotionally challenging time and none more so than for care home residents, their families and loved ones.
“Being able to be in the company of one another again, to chat and offer support will be so welcome; however, it is important for those hoping to visit their loved ones to follow the guidelines and safety measures being put in place in order to continue protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
The First Minister also used her statement to parliament to announce there had been two Covid-19-related deaths recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll under the Scottish Government’s measurement to 2,482.
There were five new positive cases, taking the total to 18,196, which Ms Sturgeon said was the second day in a row in which the number of new cases has been in single figures.
She added: “The last time that happened was March 11 so that is a sign of how far we have come and the progress we have made.”
Latest figures show there were eight new cases in care homes as of June 24, compared to a peak of 221 new cases at its peak on May 4.
Further data provided by the Scottish Government show that on June 24 a total of 330 (31%) of adult care homes in Scotland had a current case of supected Covid-19.