Last reviewed 18 January 2022

Guidance has been changed for care homes in England so they only have to close to new residents and visitors for 14 days after a Covid-19 outbreak, which is defined as two or more cases.

Guidance on Care Home Visiting was updated on 13 January 2022 so the “Care Home Outbreaks” section reflects how the Omicron variant will be treated the same as the Alpha and Delta variants for the purposes of managing outbreaks.

It says, in the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should stop indoor visiting except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life. All movements out of a setting should be minimised as far as possible. Essential care givers should be allowed to continue to visit indoors, unless the essential care giver or resident they visit is Covid-positive.

Other methods of maintaining contact between residents and their loved ones who are not essential care givers should be supported. This could include visits in well-ventilated spaces with substantial screens, visiting pods or from behind windows; telephone calls; video calls; newsletters; and emails, letters, cards or photographs.

If the first and second rounds of outbreak PCR testing do not detect any further cases in residents or staff, then outbreak control restrictions may be lifted following a risk assessment by the HPT. It says this may mean that outbreak measures may only be in place for about seven days if there is no evidence of further transmission within the care home.

Otherwise, outbreak recovery testing should be undertaken when there have been 14 days with no new cases. If no new cases are found, outbreak restrictions can then be lifted.

Explaining the change, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: “A change has been made to outbreak restrictions reducing the period from 28 to 14 days in line with this advice.” He added: “We keep these measures under constant review to ensure we continue to protect the lives, health and wellbeing of residents and fully recognise the impact of isolation and the importance of companionship on physical and mental wellbeing.”

There is also an overview of what care homes and other social care settings must do during an outbreak, here.

Previous rules said care homes in England that were experiencing an outbreak had to close their doors to indoor visitors for up to 28 days after the last positive case, except for essential care givers or if a resident is at the end of life.

The latest rules for care homes are more in keeping with changes to rules for the public, introduced from 17 January, which say people with Covid-19 in England can end their self-isolation after five full days, as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6 and do not have a temperature. Individuals who are still positive on their rapid lateral flow tests must stay in isolation until they have had two consecutive negative tests taken on separate days.

The guidance was also updated to reflect new national guidelines on the removal of confirmatory PCR tests in the case of a positive lateral flow test.