Care home self-isolation rule axed

Care home residents will be able to leave for 'low risk' visits without self-isolating for 14 days on their return.

Video Transcript

MILENA VESELINOVIC: Jim Kelly hasn't left his care home in months because rules meant that if he went out even just for a walk, he would have had to quarantine in his room for two weeks afterwards. But from Tuesday, that regulation will be scrapped, and Jim already knows where he'll go first.

JIM KELLY: I would think the first thing I would like to do is to go and see my wife's grave. She passed away in September, and I've felt like a prisoner ever since. I'd just like to go to the grave and pay my respects, and then maybe go and have a meal with the family. That would be a bonus.

MILENA VESELINOVIC: His daughter says the rule change means her father can once again feel like he's part of the family.

JANET LUDOLF: I think the flexibility to be able to do a little-- go for a coffee, you know, take a flask of coffee and go for a little walk. Or if he's feeling down, he can just, you know, he can ring us and say, do you fancy a walk? Do you-- can come over for coffee in your garden? 'Cause luckily, dad can still drive.

MILENA VESELINOVIC: The government says it can now drop the quarantine rule because COVID cases continue to fall. It's one more step to getting back to normal, says care minister Helen Wheatley. But outings must be limited to outdoor spaces and private gardens, and residents can't meet in groups. Some though feel that the quarantine rules should have never been in place.

The requirement for residents to self-isolate for two weeks after a single outing meant that really most of them haven't been out of the care home in months. And that, campaigners say, didn't make any sense because care home staff would still come in and out every day without restrictions.

A rights group says the regulation deprived people in care of their agency and autonomy.

NICCI GERARD: What this last year of the pandemic has brutally exposed is that there is a whole section of society, those people, old and young, who live in care homes, who have been deprived of their liberties, who are treated as if they are different and less than the rest of-- and the rest of us, and we just need to keep an eye on that.

MILENA VESELINOVIC: For Jim and many like him, this newly restored freedom means life will have more joy once again. Milena Veselinovic, Sky News.