Residents at long-term care homes in Mississauga and Brampton can now hold hands and hug one another.
With high rates of COVID-19 vaccination among the residents and caregivers, the provincial government says it is loosening pandemic restrictions placed at the homes once the current stay-at-home order is lifted.
Included in the changes are communal dining and social activities that can now be resumed safely and fully immunized residents and caregivers will be allowed to have close physical contact, such as hugging.
“The painful absence of family and friends together with the very difficult, but necessary isolation from other residents have been the most heartbreaking realities for seniors living in long-term care throughout much of this pandemic,” said Lisa Levin, CEO, AdvantAge Ontario.
“We are so relieved and grateful that the early roll out of vaccines to residents and staff has brought needed protection and that the province is now in a position to safely lift some of the restrictions that have kept residents and friends and loved ones apart. This is truly what we have been waiting for — the hugs are long overdue.”
As of Monday, 95 per cent of long-term care residents across Ontario are fully immunized and over 85 per cent of staff at the homes have received at least their first dose.
Once the current stay-at-home order is lifted, the province said it will soon issue further direction for fully vaccinated residents that allow for social and temporary outings.
Under the Directive #3 update, all residents, regardless of their immunization status, can leave their homes on essential absence, including outdoor exercise, grocery shopping or visiting the pharmacy.
Essential absence is not allowed when a resident is symptomatic.
“The high vaccination uptake in long-term care homes means we can take further steps towards bringing social interactions back — supporting the mental and emotional well-being of residents while protecting their physical well-being,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
The province said it will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity in long-term care homes and ensure the health and safety of residents and staff in this sector remains a top priority.