CARE home residents in England are finally allowed to receive indoor visitors.

But local authorities in Cumbria are still weighing up the degree to which indoor visits - which will come with a number of new checks and stipulations - can be permitted across the county's social care sector.

Under the new national guidelines, physical contact with visiting friends and family will be banned.

Visitors will also not be able to wear hats or take flowers, but will be allowed to bring pre-packaged goods that can be sanitised.

Notably, residents will be limited to 'a single constant visitor' whose call-ins are to be pre-arranged and booked in advance with the residential centre or care provider.

It was reported earlier this month that care homes in the county had recorded no new Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreaks for the first time since April, as residential centres cautiously prepared to receive visitors once again.

By contrast, at the peak of the pandemic, 27 care homes across Cumbria were combatting outbreaks, with more than 300 residents infected with Covid-19.

However, infection rates in social care have since dropped dramatically and remained close to zero - with there being no new recorded cases in Barrow in recent weeks.

There has been just one fresh Covid-19-related fatality recorded at a South Lakes care home over the last four weeks.

Furness care homes confirmed yesterday that they had not yet received any new guidance from local government.

Diane Connolly, manager at the Nether Place Care Centre in Keswick, said the home had not yet received the new information from national or local government regarding the new rules and guidelines for care home visits.

"We're still awaiting guidance from Public Health England and the local authority. Given the recent outbreaks in Carlisle and other parts of northern Cumbria, we're not sure yet how we'll be affected and when we'll be able to allow indoor visits again.

"So for now, we're still only allowing outdoor visits here."

Cold Springs Park and Crofts Avenue care homes in Penrith were also approached.

Cumbria's director of public health, Colin Cox, said it was likely that new guidance on indoor visits for care homes in the county would be issued in the coming week.

Commenting on the latest de-escalation of lockdown measures for the social care sector, he said: "the national guidance has changed, but we're still taking stock of that.

"It's certainly possible that the changes to guidelines nationally could be rolled out in south Cumbria - we first have to of course take account of the risk before making any rash decisions.

"Circulation of the virus in the community has obviously dropped in recent months and staff management alongside other prevention measures have meant that incidence levels have dropped considerably in this setting.

"But obviously some of the measures that have been necessary to achieve this - such as people being cohorted and quarantined for 14 days or so in what is effectively their own homes - has been very difficult for them.

"And so returning to some kind of normality will be very important - we will do as much as we can and the best we can to ensure this can happen safely."