VICTORIA, B.C. -British Columbians will have more opportunities to see, and hug, their loved ones in care facilities after an announcement from health officials Thursday.

The changes to the provincial guidelines, taking effect on April 1st, will give long-term care and assisted living residents the ability to have more freedom during social visits. Instead of a lone designated visitor, residents will be able to have two visitors and one child per visit.

“There have been no groups more adversely affected in our province than our seniors, elders and people who work in long-term care and assisted living,” says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The new rules won’t require staff to be present, and social distancing requirements are removed in these settings as long as visitors pass a health screening and wear a mask. Care homes will provide an hour for each visit.

“Changes to long-term care visitation to allow for increased social connection are incredibly welcome news for seniors and Elders in long-term care, and the communities that support them,” says Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors Services and Long-Term Care.

The ease of restrictions is due to the vaccine rollout’s success, as most of BC’s most vulnerable residents have already received their first vaccine dose.

People living and working in long-term care and assisted living were among the very first to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as a part of B.C.’s strategy to use vaccines to protect those most vulnerable to severe illness first and reduce transmission in high-risk settings.