A hug from a grandparent will now become a reality for BC residents, after nearly three and a half months without.

The B.C. government is easing restrictions around visits to long term care facilities, allowing for one visitor per resident in a designated area.

“There have been many dark and anxious days, today is a lighter day for us all,” said Provincial Health Officer Doctor Henry, explaining the approach will be monitored in July with plans to expand in August.

These new regulations do not apply to facilities currently in an outbreak (Five currently), there must be designated screening staff, there will be indoor and outdoor spaces for meeting, visitors must also book in advance and wear a mask.

“We know how important it is for our family members in long-term care to receive visits from family, friends and supporters. We also know that’s a risk when we have COVID-19 in the community,” said Dr. Henry.

Dr. Henry says assisted living residents will have more freedom but will have to follow public health guidelines.

Hairdressers and barbers can go into facilities but they have to complete a safety plan.

Dr. Henry is recommending visitors limit their own interactions to essential only, and added the policy will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province will be providing up $160 million to hire up to 2,040 new staff for care homes (3 per home) to help manage the visitations and ensure safety standards.

“British Columbians flattened the curve through individual actions and a commitment to look out for each other – our families, friends, and neighbors,” said Dix.

“That commitment has come with many sacrifices, especially from our seniors and Elders who have been separated from their loved ones. That’s why throughout this pandemic, we are have sought to continually improve our long-term care and seniors’ assisted living operations, to make them safer for residents and those who care for them.”

The Province will also provide $26.5 million for facilities to address costs that they incurred between March 1 and June 30, 2020, including:

  • additional screening so only those approved to enter facilities do so;
  • costs incurred due to sick time and self-isolation;
  • costs for changes to services, i.e., delivering meals to rooms or staggering meal times, additional housekeeping and enhanced cleaning
  • infection prevention and control costs.

However, Visits will have to be suspended if there is a spike in cases.