SOME care homes are still failing to provide basic visiting requirements despite coronavirus all but vanishing from premises across Scotland.

Cathie Russell, who set up the Care Home Relatives Scotland Facebook group last August, said some of its members were still being limited to just one visit a week with one in four saying they were still not enjoying what they would describe as "meaningful" indoor visits with loved ones.

It comes as the latest figures for Scotland show that there were just three confirmed cases of Covid among residents across all of Scotland's care homes in the most recent two-week period, from April 5 to 18.

HeraldScotland: Confirmed positive Covid cases in all care homes, weekly, from mid-November to mid-AprilConfirmed positive Covid cases in all care homes, weekly, from mid-November to mid-April

This covers homes for the elderly as well as those for people with learning disabilities, and compares to 641 in the first week of January.

As many frail elderly people will not be tested for Covid, some cases are classed as suspected, but even then only three per cent of all adult care homes in Scotland - 32 premises - were reporting any confirmed or suspected infections as of April 21.

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This reflects a steady decline in the prevalence of the virus in the community but also the impact of vaccinations, with 90 per cent of all residents in older adult care homes now having had a second dose.

A major study by Oxford University last week found that a second Pfizer vaccine was preventing an estimated 90% of infections within three weeks of inoculation - even in the elderly.

Care home visitors and staff are also tested using lateral flow devices to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

HeraldScotland: Source: Public Health Scotland, April 27Source: Public Health Scotland, April 27

Despite this, the Scottish Government's Levels guidance on care home visiting does not anticipate any further easing to restrictions until Level Zero, which is expected to be introduced in late June.

The current advice, which came into effect in March, recommends that care homes allow a "minimum" of two indoor visits per week for one designated visitor at a time, with additional visits "at the discretion of individual care homes" and essential visits, for example for terminally ill residents, "at all times".

This applies, unchanged, from Levels Four to One, before adjusting to "open subject to local health protection advice"in Level Zero.

HeraldScotland: Roadmap out of lockdown, from Level Four (red) to Level Zero (green)Roadmap out of lockdown, from Level Four (red) to Level Zero (green)

Mrs Russell, from Glasgow, said her 89-year-old mother's care home had been "flexible" about the length of time she gets for visits and allows her to take her mother out for walks in the park or picnics outdoors, but that others were having a poorer experience.

A survey of 220 members of the Care Home Relatives group found that 25.5% are still not getting "meaningful" indoor visits, with nearly one in 10 saying they were still being limited to one visit per week.


HeraldScotland: Sample of responses to Care Home Relatives Scotland surveySample of responses to Care Home Relatives Scotland survey

The vast majority of respondents (81.8%) said they were allocated up to 30 minutes or an hour maximum per visit, with around 4% saying they were still banned from having any physical contact - such as hugs or hand holding - with loved ones.

The Scottish Government 'Open Up Safely' guidance, published in February, said homes should "maximise meaningful contact between residents" as the pandemic continues.

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The survey findings will be shared with the Scottish Government today.

Mrs Russell said: "Most care homes are doing the two designated visits, but some of them are saying 'that's it', or they say if you have an outdoor visit it replaces one of your indoor visits.

"Very few people are getting more than an hour. The Government needs to encourage the care homes to progress beyond the minimum - because some are not even providing what was meant to be given to people seven weeks ago."


Mrs Russell said she had recently spoken to one man whose wife is in a care home.

"He gets 30 minutes in a room - he's allowed to give her a brief hug, then he has to sit two metres away.

"His wife is non-verbal - he just wants to sit and hold her hand, but he's not being allowed.

"It's very inhumane and very restrictive in some places. But other places are going the extra mile to make things much more normal for people.

"I'd hate to think they'd make us wait until the end of June before making any changes to the guidance, because what if we get new variants or something and they push things back even further?"

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A spokeswoman for Scottish Care, which represents private care providers, said the virus figures were "positive" and that "good progress" is being made on opening up care homes.

She said: "Care homes are increasingly allowing indoor visits and meaningful contact between residents and their loved ones.

"Recently updated guidance also details the gradual increase of use of communal areas and activities in care homes...the critical role of meaningful contact for the mental health and physical wellbeing of both resident and family member cannot be over-emphasised.

"We hope that visitation will continue to open up, with guidance and measures in place to protect everyone. We hope this will increasingly mirror the pace and stage of what is happening in the wider community.

"However, care homes are shared environments and the tragic risks of Covid getting in are only too well known. We will continue to need mitigations and precautions to keep people safe for some time to come."