FAMILIES who have been kept apart by the coronavirus pandemic could soon be safely reunited under plans to allow relatives to visit residents in care homes.

Since the outbreak of the virus and tougher restrictions imposed on Bury and the rest of the Greater Manchester, families and friends have been unable to visit loved ones living in care homes.

Until now the Government has only allowed visits in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

But thanks to work by Bury Council, care providers, directors of adult social care and directors of public health across Greater Manchester, window visits and in garden pods will be allowed ­— as long a robust risk assessment has been carried out and signed off.

Visits would be strictly limited to a nominated carer or family member.

The move comes as council chiefs called for the definition of "exceptional circumstances" to be expanded to include the impact of the length of time since residents and relatives have seen each other.

There are 56 care homes across Bury, with 1,244 residents.

It will be the responsibility of each home to carry out the risk assessments, supported by the council, and the risk assessments will be reviewed and approved by the Director of Public Health.

Cllr Andrea Simpson, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “People living in care homes are among the most vulnerable in society to being seriously affected by covid-19, and it is only right that we take all possible measures to prevent them from contracting this potentially fatal virus.

“However, we also know how heartbreaking it is for residents not to receive visits, and for family members unable to see their elderly relatives, in some cases for weeks or months at a time.

“We’ve been working very hard with our partners in health and social care across Greater Manchester to allow visits to take place while obeying the law and keeping the risk of infection to a minimum.

“We are passionate about supporting our residents and understand how important meaningful visits are, and are working with our care providers on the risk assessments and sign-off process so we can implement these visits as soon as possible.”