No easing of restrictions on hospital visiting over Christmas, health secretary confirms

There will be no easing of Covid-19 restrictions on hospital visiting over the Christmas and new year period, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has confirmed.

Visiting arrangements for hospitals and care homes in Scotland will remain in place over the Christmas and New Year period,
Visiting arrangements for hospitals and care homes in Scotland will remain in place over the Christmas and New Year period,

There will be a UK-wide loosening of restrictions on travel and gatherings between December 23 and 27 to allow people to spend Christmas with loved ones if they choose.

But this guidance will not extend to hospitals or care homes, Ms Freeman said.

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She added that the Scottish Government is encouraging “flexibility and compassion” in health boards and care homes when applying guidance over the festive period in order to reduce isolation.

The interim Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nursing Officer and National Clinical Director sent a joint letter to health boards stating that the relaxation will not apply to hospitals, given the increased vulnerability of hospital patients compared to the general population.

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Guidance has also been published for adult care homes, recommending that indoor visiting should continue to be supported where it is safe to do so, as well as setting out specific safeguards that care homes can put in place to safely support festive activities.

Rapid lateral flow Covid-19 tests will be introduced in some care homes to allow increased visiting from Monday.

Those not in the initial wave of lateral flow testing will have access to the more established but slower PCR tests over the Christmas period.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “While most people will see a limited relaxation of existing restrictions over the holiday period, hospital and care home visiting guidance will remain in place to protect patients and residents.“However, we are encouraging Boards and care homes to continue to apply this guidance with flexibility and compassion, given how important the Christmas and New Year period is for many families, to ensure no-one is unnecessarily isolated over the Christmas period. Essential visits should also continue regardless of local restrictions, as they have throughout the pandemic.

Under the current guidance, only essential hospital visits are allowed in Level Four.

In Level Three, the default position is that only essential visits are allowed, but clinicians have the power to admit one designated visitor if they think it is safe and appropriate.

In Level Two, one designated visitor is allowed, and in Levels One and Zero, two are permitted.

In all levels visitors to hospitals must observe social distancing.

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