Limits on visitors in care homes will be lifted as restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the Omicron COVID variant in adult social care are eased.
From Monday 31 January, care home residents will be able to receive unlimited visitors while self-isolation periods will be cut from 14 days to 10 for those who do test positive for the virus.
Care homes will have to follow outbreak management rules for 14, rather than 28, days.
By Wednesday 16 February, care workers will be asked to take lateral flow tests before their shifts, replacing the current system of weekly PCR tests.
The move comes as government data shows 86.5% of care home residents have had their booster jab.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I know how vital companionship is to those living in care homes and the positive difference visits make, which is why we continued to allow three named visitors and an essential care giver under Plan B measures.
“Thanks to the progress we have made, I am delighted that care home restrictions can now be eased further allowing residents to see more of their loved ones.”
In December, it was announced care home residents would only be allowed three named people who can visit regularly, to try and protect them from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
The government said it changed the rules for care home visits “to balance the current COVID-19 risk and the need to keep people safe in line with clinical advice”.
Staff testing was also ramped up, to three lateral flow tests per week, as well as a weekly PCR.
The announcement comes as England moves out of the government’s Plan B rules, with face masks no longer legally required in any setting from today and venues no longer required to use the NHS COVID pass system.
The UK’s other nations are also moving to less stringent restrictions, but are not opening up to the level of England.