Care home residents will be allowed a second regular indoor visitor from April 12, the Government has announced, while babies and young children can also attend.
Infants and children are not counted as one of the two visitors, meaning care home residents in England will be allowed to see small bubbles of loved ones for the first time in months.
It comes amid reports that vaccinated Brits could be able to travel abroad and avoid quarantine restrictions under Government plans to allow foreign summer holidays.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to signal on Monday that foreign getaway destinations will be ranked under a traffic light system when international travel restrictions ease.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the drop in community infection and vaccine rollout means the increase in visitor numbers can go ahead as set out in the road map out of lockdown.
The DHSC said visitors would be allowed to hold hands but that personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn, while a negative rapid lateral flow test will also be required from adult visitors before entry is permitted.
Mr Johnson said: “Reuniting family and friends has been a priority each time restrictions have eased, and the next step will be no different.
“I’m particularly pleased to allow residents to have more visitors, including grandchildren, given the isolation and concern felt by so many this past year.
“Thanks to the tireless work of care home staff, and the success of the vaccine rollout, we’re able to increase the number of visits in a safe and controlled way.”
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports that under plans to restart foreign travel, those who have been fully vaccinated with two jabs may not have to quarantine on return from medium-risk countries.
They may also be required to take fewer tests after visiting low-risk countries, the newspaper adds.
As millions plan to see friends and family over the Easter weekend, the Prime Minister urged against people meeting others from different households indoors.
Groups of up to six, or two households, are now able to meet up in parks and gardens after the stay-at-home order ended in England earlier this week, but socialising indoors remains banned to limit the spread of the virus.
Mr Johnson said that the country was not yet at the stage of allowing people to meet indoors as he warned that vaccines do not guarantee “100% protection” from coronavirus.
In other developments:
– The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine but stressed the benefits “continue to outweigh any risks”.
– The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England is between 0.8 and 1, according to the latest Government figures, compared to a figure of between 0.7 and 0.9 for the whole of the UK last week.
– The Department for Transport said travel bans are to be introduced for visitors from the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh, with the countries added to England’s so-called red list.