A Norfolk council member has praised the public for “acting responsibly” during the pandemic, saying it had helped the county to now be in a position to re-open care homes to family visitors.

In the wake of the government’s easing of visiting restrictions in care homes, Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s  cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “We’ve only reached the point where visits to care homes are possible because the public followed the Public Health advice and acted responsibly over the past few months. 

“For that I want to say thank you to everyone in Norfolk, but also to ask everyone to keep following the guidance and act with caution: that is the only way we’ll be able to continue visiting our loved ones over the months to come.

 “We know that this news will mean a lot for many care home residents across Norfolk as well as for their families. 

“In restarting visits the safety and the health of care home residents must be our top priority. Each care home is drawing up full risk assessments and making their own decisions, with support from us, ensuring the history of infection – both within the home and in the households of any visitors – is considered before any visits are made.”

 In a statement, the council said: “It’s important to stress that visits will only be able to begin at a care home once they have completed a full risk assessment and, of course, those which have had more recent COVID cases may be more cautious than those which have been COVID free for a while.”

 The council said preventing infections in care home remained the first priority and providers must balance the benefits to the residents against the risk of visitors introducing infection.

The statement said alternatives to face-to-face visits should still be available via telephone or online video visits. Other key elements to be considered before doors re-open to visitors included the ability of the home to put in place practical measures to mitigate any risks, such as allowing visits in communal gardens, and the risks to vulnerable residents.

 “Practical effectiveness of social distancing between residents and visitors which may be down to physical constraints or to the difficulties of maintaining social difficulties with some residents,” the statement said.