Timeline: UK government advice on restricting visits to care homes

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Britain’s parliament on Wednesday that his government moved swiftly to protect the country’s vulnerable care homes before a national lockdown on March 23.

FILE PHOTO: Senior carer Jo Battams and housekeeper Gillie Gillroy, who remain on site with six colleagues, play Jenga with resident Iris Hook at Fremantle Trust care home, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Princes Risborough, Britain, May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Under pressure to defend his record on fighting Covid-19, Johnson said: “We brought in the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown.”

An examination by Reuters of the guidance issued to care homes, as well as interviews with three care home providers, has provided no evidence that any such early lockdown was ordered. Link to story

Below is a timeline of the government’s advice:

February 25

Public Health England, the official agency responsible in England, issued guidance to care homes about Covid-19 ( The guidance contained no restriction on visits, and stated that, at the time, it was "very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected."

March 13

Public Health England issued new guidance ( which said visitors who are feeling unwell should not visit care homes and emphasised the "positive impact" of seeing friends and family. The advisory did not impose a ban on visits."To minimise the risk of transmission, care home providers are advised to review their visiting policy by asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell, and by emphasising good hand hygiene for visitors."

Balancing those restrictions, it said that care home policies “should also consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family.”

March 23

The government issued a general lockdown order (here) to the nation.

On April 2

New guidance (here) was issued jointly by the Department for Health and Social Care and other agencies. It said visits should only be made in exceptional circumstances, such as when residents are dying.

“Family and friends should be advised not to visit care homes, except next of kin in exceptional situations such as end of life.”

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Stephen Grey; editing by Janet McBride