In a small step out of the nation’s lockdown, the UK will soon allow nursing home residents to have a single family member or friend visit them indoors.
Residents and their visitors will be able to hold hands, but not hug, the government says of the changes that will take effect on March 8.
For months, people in care homes have only been able to see loved ones outdoors or through screens.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will announce a “road map” out of lockdown on Monday.
The government has stressed that easing restrictions will be slow and cautious, with shops and outdoor gatherings unlikely to return before April.
Children will go back to school from March 8.
Johnson’s Conservative government has been accused of reopening the country too quickly after the first lockdown in the spring.
Britain has had around 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.
The number of new confirmed cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all declining, but remain high, and Johnson said this week his reopening roadmap would follow “data, not dates”.
The UK government is also racing to vaccinate the population as quickly as possible against the virus.
So far almost 17 million people, a quarter of the population, have received the first of two doses of a vaccine.
The new nursing home measures apply in England. In other parts of the UK, visiting rules vary, with Scottish residents able to have two visitors from March 8.