FAMILIES may soon be able to once again visit relatives in care homes - although visits may be very different to the time before the Covid 19 pandemic.

Measures are being introduced at Bradford facilities to allow families to visit loved ones in care for the first time since lockdown began.

The news was announced at a Bradford Council meeting on Tuesday evening - and the next day the Government announced that it was relaxing visiting restrictions on care homes nationally.

At a meeting of Bradford Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, members were given an update on the current situation in the District’s care homes and how they were coping with Covid 19.

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Bev Maybury, Strategic Director for Health and Wellbeing, answered questions from the committee about adult social care in the District since the pandemic hit.

She said during the height of the pandemic there were "outbreaks" - two or more infections, in 33 out of the 107 care homes for older people in Bradford. The meeting heard that this number had been brought down to zero on a number of consecutive days.

As of Tuesday there were two care home residents who had tested positive, although both were asymptomatic.

Mrs Maybury said testing, and re-testing, of staff had helped control the outbreak in recent weeks.

She said: “We’re trying to decide when is best to relax guidance on visiting. We’ve had things like garden visits or messages in windows.

“We’re looking with some care homes to the slow re-introduction of visits. it would be in one room with booked visiting times.

“After the visit ends the room will be disinfected ready for the next family.

“We’re starting to build up a picture of how we can support people. It is really important for people’s wellbeing and mental health. Enforced separation from loved ones is something we’ll have to tackle.”

She said it was important that any changes were done safely and did not lead to further infections, adding: “We don’t want to go back to where we were two, three months ago."

Councillor Paul Godwin (Lab, Keighley West), who is himself a doctor, questioned whether the strict rules placed on visiting care homes had in fact been an overreaction.

He said: "Nationally we were told at the start that not visiting would protect elderly residents. It did nothing of the sort. The virus was introduced to care homes by members of staff and patients being discharged from hospital.

"In a word, it was cobblers. We could have allowed people who were low risk who were unlikely to have the virus to visit relatives.

"For people unable to receive visits it is as if they are being treated worse than if they had committed a crime."

He pointed out the past few months had been a bad time for families with relatives in care homes, with many not able to visit loved ones in their final days.

Mrs Maybury said that in Bradford, and across the country, plans had to be put in place for a worse case scenario, with the focus on keeping people alive and safe from infection.

This included a strict lockdown on care home visits.