FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Residents in long-term care can now select their own visitor and are allowed a backup in the event that someone is sick or is unable to visit.

On Tuesday, it was announced that residents are now able to have a second visitor that doesn’t fall under the criteria of “essential care.”

Previously, these residents were only allowed essential visitors, such as those providing essential care or end-of-life care. Visits were limited to one person per resident at a time, with exceptions made in palliative cases.

Officials say that currently, only one-third of seniors and other residents in care have an essential visitor. These visitors have had to receive approval from the care home before visiting.

As of this week, in addition to that essential visitor, every resident will now be able to choose someone to be their “designated” visitor.

“If you have two children, one of them can be your essential visitor if they’re already designated, and you can have another person come in to be your visitor,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Henry said the change in restrictions came at the suggestion of a seniors advocate and added that visitors will still be allowed to come regardless of if there’s a spike in COVID cases within the community or an outbreak in the facility.

However, she says visitors must still be vaccinated.

“They will need to be because we know that it’s still pretty risky, they’ll need to be vaccinated themselves, and that’s why we’re prioritizing long-term care for making sure we can test people with rapid tests as well,” Henry said.

Visitors will not be permitted if they show signs or symptoms of illness, are in self-isolation or have been advised to quarantine.

Proof of vaccination and masks will be required.