France's Christmas gift to care home residents: More freedom

FILE - In this April 16, 2020 file photo, Marie Lithard, right, and her neighboor Yves Chretien sit looking out of their rooms in a nursing home in Ammerschwir, France. The French government announced Saturday Dec. 12, 2020, it is giving care home residents more freedom for the end of year holidays, allowing them out to spend time with their families and receive visits even if they are positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)
FILE - In this April 16, 2020 file photo, Marie Lithard, right, and her neighboor Yves Chretien sit looking out of their rooms in a nursing home in Ammerschwir, France. The French government announced Saturday Dec. 12, 2020, it is giving care home residents more freedom for the end of year holidays, allowing them out to spend time with their families and receive visits even if they are positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File) (Jean-Francois Badias)

PARIS – At the end of an often brutally lonely year for elderly care home residents in France, the government is giving them more freedom for the December holidays, allowing them out to spend time with their families and receive visits even if they are positive for COVID-19.

The relaxed rules were announced Saturday and will apply from Tuesday to Jan. 3. The deputy health minister in charge of elderly affairs tweeted that injecting the spirit of Christmas into care homes is “essential” to maintain family ties and fight loneliness.

Roughly one-third of France's more than 57,500 virus deaths have occurred in care homes. Residents have been subjected to strict confinement measures, including being limited to their rooms, to curb infections.

A new six-page document from the Health Ministry that laid out the relaxed visitation rules for the Christmas-New Year period said they applied even to homes that have infected residents.

Residents who haven't tested positive will be allowed out again to spend time with their families.

Residents who have tested positive will be allowed to receive up to two visitors in their room.

The rules said care home residents, “like the rest of the population, should benefit from the possibility to spend the end of year holidays in the company of their loved ones.”