CARE homes across Essex have been given the go ahead to allow visitors.... as long as appropriate measures are put in place to keep residents safe.

Visiting was temporarily paused at care homes in order to prevent further spread of Covid-19 and keep vulnerable elderly people safe.

The Government has now said directors of public health can decide if the rules can be eased in their area.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s public health boss, said the level of infection is now low enough for some care homes to allow visiting again.

This is only possible for homes with no current outbreak and where it is not rated “red” by the health leaders.

Homes will be required to carry out a full risk assessment prior to allowing visitors to return.

Where visits do go ahead, they will be limited to a single, consistent visitor, per resident, wherever possible.

If an outbreak is suspected at any time, visiting arrangements will be stopped and reviewed immediately.

To date, 26 people in care homes in Colchester have died as a result of coronavirus.

In Tendring, figures show 43 people in care homes have lost their lives after contracting the Covid-19 virus.

Read more >>> This is by how much north Essex's coronavirus infection rate has fallen over the last week

John Spence, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said it was welcome news.

He said: “I know this will be welcome news for a lot of Essex residents who have spent the past few months unable to visit their loved ones.

“We cannot underestimate the emotional toll not being able to see elderly relatives will have taken on many families during this time, and indeed for the residents themselves, and I would like to thank anyone in this position for the sacrifice they have made.”

Dr Gogarty added it was another step in the right direction towards normality.

He said: “This update from the Government marks another step forward in our journey to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and I’m confident that the conditions are right for care homes in Essex to decide how they might re-instate their visiting arrangements.

“However, it is vital that these visits are managed carefully in order to mitigate any potential risk.

“We will be monitoring the situation carefully and will not hesitate to take action if needed.”