RELATIVES will be allowed to visit care homes residents in the next few weeks, the Government has confirmed.

More than a million lateral flow tests providing rapid results, are being sent to care home providers over the next month which will enable safe indoor visits, the Department of Health and Social care said.

When asked about the tests in Swindon, Sue Wald, borough council corporate director of adults’ social services, said: “One of the things we are now focusing on is testing in care homes.

“We don’t have a time scale yet, and we haven’t received the test kits yet. But we have already identified that we would do this as a pilot. We are waiting for guidance and how care homes managers potentially can be trained in that and how the logistics would work.

“So, no definite time scale, but I believe they would be here in the next few weeks.”

All care homes are set to receive enough tests so they can offer visits by Christmas if safe to do so. The number of test kits will allow up to two visitors per resident, based on two visits a week.

Sue said: “We have implemented schemes where relatives are able to visit people in care homes, even if it’s not in person but through making arrangements.”

Two council-run care homes have created special Covid-safe areas for family members to meet their loved ones at a window.

Staff at Fessey House in Haydon Wick have put together cosy visiting area complete with decorative lights, candles, and flowers.

Whitbourne House in Park South has implemented similar arrangements this week as staff have put a small marquee on the outside of the home’s conservatory to allow people to see their relatives through window. And both homes have installed their own intercom system, allowing visitors to chat with residents.

They both cancelled visits back in March a week before the country went into lockdown. Since then, they have used phone calls and video calls on tablets as a means of keeping residents in touch with family and friends.

Lucy May’s mum Rosie has been a resident at Fessey House since March 2013.

“My mum is 90 and has dementia,” said Lucy. “Since she moved into Fessey she has always wanted to stay in her own little space, so she has never left her room.

“So, it was absolutely amazing that when I went to see mum last week she was sat there waiting for me behind the window in the new visiting area. It is a moment I will never forget and that is all down to the staff at Fessey who have created such a lovely space for the visitors. They have put so much thought and effort into it - it’s perfect.

“I cannot thank the staff enough. They have had a tough eight months and they have put their lives on hold for our loved ones.”

Lucy added: “I completely understand why the care home decided not to allow visitors at the start of the pandemic because I would never have forgiven myself if I had gone into the care home and unknowingly passed on COVID to mum. It has been really difficult, but I have Skype at home, and I’ve been using that to speak to mum every week. But now I can see her in person which means the world to me.”

Tony Wilkinson recently visited his 89-year-old mum Doris for the first time since before the first lockdown. “It was very emotional,” he said. “The new visiting area is very nice and they have done a great job.

“It was very difficult not being able to see mum. We used to Facetime her throughout the week, but it’s not the same as seeing her in person. Mum is very well looked after and although it was hard not being able to visit, we knew she was safe.”

Cabinet member for adults and health Brian Ford said: “The COVID-secure spaces have been extremely well received at Fessey House and I am sure the marquee we have put up at Whitbourne House will prove equally as popular. I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff for putting them together.

“Last week was a very emotional experience due to the length of time families have been apart. For some residents it was the first time they have been visited by family for quite a while and it’s important to remember that during these difficult times, some more vulnerable members of our community have had a really tough time.”