Visiting rules at care homes are to be relaxed from Monday, the Scottish government has announced.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said up to three outdoor visitors from two households would be allowed.
Infection control measures, including face coverings and physical distancing, will need to be in place.
Another 48 cases of coronavirus were confirmed across the country on Sunday, with a further 28 in NHS Grampian, where there is a cluster of infections.
However, just 6% of care homes in Scotland currently have a suspected Covid-19 case, according to Scottish government figures.
Care home residents have been allowed to meet one person outdoors since 3 July.
The Scottish government conditions for allowing visitors are:
- Care home needs to have been Covid-free throughout the pandemic
- If there have been infections, all affected residents need to be fully recovered
- No residents or staff should have had symptoms in past 28 days
- Active participation in weekly staff testing
The Scottish government said “essential visits” – including those involving end-of-life care, and visits for residents who are experiencing distress – have been permitted throughout the pandemic and would continue.
Care home providers have also been asked to develop plans on how they can allow one designated visitor for residents indoors. Plans for indoor visiting will need to be signed off by the local health board by 24 August.
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Ms Freeman said the pandemic continued to be a “very challenging time” for care home residents, families and staff.
“Care homes are first and foremost people’s homes and we are committed to reintroducing measures that allow residents to connect with their family and friends. But this must be done safely and with precautions,” she said.
“Progress has been made since we reintroduced one designated outdoor visitor earlier this month, and I am pleased the clinical advice is now that care homes that meet the strict criteria can now allow residents to have up to three outdoor visitors from no more than two households.”
The minister said all changes were being carried out with “real caution”.
Charity Age Scotland said it “warmly welcomed” the relaxation in visiting rules.
Adam Stachura, the organisation’s head of policy and communications, said: “The benefits to residents’ wellbeing after being able to see and interact with one visitor has been clear for all to see so for them this expansion can’t come soon enough.
“Now they may be able to see more of their children and grandchildren which will be a tremendous boost to them all.”
But the Scottish government said there would be no relaxation of care home visiting restrictions in Aberdeen, where a local lockdown is in place to tackle a cluster of linked cases.
There are now 134 confirmed cases of Covid-19 linked to the Aberdeen cluster and NHS Grampian said it was investigating 728 close contacts.
One of Saturday’s positive cases reported by NHS Grampian has now been reassigned to NHS Shetland.
The person was from Shetland but had been tested while visiting the Grampian health board area.
The positive cases in the Aberdeen cluster include two players at Aberdeen FC.
The players were among a group of eight footballers who visited a bar in the city a week ago. The whole group are now self-isolating.
They have now released a statement apologising for their actions, saying they never “could have foreseen the escalation of Covid-19 cases in the Grampian area”.
They also deny deliberately attempting to “flaunt or disobey government guidelines”.
Aberdeen has seen a total of 112 new coronavirus cases in the seven days up to 7 August – a rate of 49 infections per 100,000 people.
This compares to a rate of 80.6 in Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire, which is currently top of Public Health England’s local authority watchlist.
NHS Grampian said it was investigating 643 “close contacts” from cases in the area.