Care home residents will be able to nominate five visitors for regular visits when the UK moves to the next phase of lockdown easing on Monday.
In updated guidance published on its website, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the named visitors can attend two at a time or separately.
The visitor figure does not include babies and pre-school children, so young families can visit a care home without exceeding the limit, as long as they do not breach rules on indoor gatherings.
To limit the infection risk, care home residents can not have more than two visitors in a day.
Residents with special care needs may chose to nominate an essential carer as one of their five visitors.
The carer will be exempt from the two visitors-a-day limit.
Named visitors should be regularly tested, wear appropriate personal protective equipment and maintain social distancing, the DHSC said.
Other close physical contact like hugging is still banned.
The DHSC said care homes should still offer visits to residents’ friends and relatives who are not among their five named contacts via outdoor visiting, rooms with Covid-screen, visiting pods or from behind windows.
Residents will now have greater freedom to leave their care homes without having to quarantine for 14 days upon return.
As of May 17, they have the right to take part in off-site education or training and for medical appointments without needing to quarantine afterwards, but will have to self-isolate following overnight stays in hospital.
The DHSC said residents can also leave for activities that are “necessary to maintain an individual’s health and wellbeing”, such as a trip to a day centre or a visit to a place of worship, without having to self-isolate.
It added that care home staff should carry out a specific risk assessment for each resident who wishes to make a visit, including considering levels of infection and the presence of variants of concern in the community.
Residents who make a visit for anything other than the three permitted activities, such as an overnight stay with a family member, should still self-isolate for two weeks upon return.
“This remains under active review and it is our ambition that guidance on the need for self-isolation following overnight stays will be amended as soon as the data and evidence show it is safe,” the DHSC said.