Social care isolation rules have been relaxed following concerns over staff being off sick and problems discharging patients from hospital.
Previously, if a care home had at least two coronavirus cases, outbreak control measures – such as blocking new admissions and indoor visitors except those with essential caregiver status – were put in place for 28 days.
The Government has announced this has been shortened to 14 days in a move to allow more family members to visit loved ones and help NHS services safely discharge patients.
It comes after services had experienced staff isolating or off sick with Covid, an increasing number of outbreaks, problems with accessing tests and delayed results.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the change will be kept under review
A spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic we have done everything we can to protect those receiving care with the measures in place based on the latest scientific and expert advice.
“A change has been made to outbreak restrictions reducing the period from 28 to 14 days in line with this advice.
“We keep these measures under constant review to ensure we continue to protect the lives, health and wellbeing of residents and fully recognise the impact of isolation and the importance of companionship on physical and mental wellbeing.”
Stephen Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), said providers across England had been reporting absences of between 5% and 10% of their workforce.
He said he was aware of two councils where decisions had been made to reduce the number of visits carers could make to some people in their homes on a case-by-case basis.
Two national supported living providers, who help people with mental health needs and learning disabilities to live independent lives, had told him they were not able to support people going out as much.
Thousands of hospital patients, who were ready to be discharged into care homes, had been stuck due to the staffing shortages.