However, April 26 will not be a return to normal visiting, Ms Freeman noted, but added it is “an important step towards normality and will, I hope, be welcomed by health staff, by patients and by their loved ones.”
Guidance will be issued to individual health boards across Scotland regarding the return of visiting to ensure the safety of staff and patient well-being.
Speaking at the coronavirus briefing today, March 19, Ms Freeman said: “I’m pleased to confirm that subject to the continued suppression of the virus, hospital visiting will restart from April 26.
"Initially, only one visitor will be allowed for each patient and we will be issuing guidance through our health boards to help them ensure that visits are safe as possible and also to help ensure that patients and their loved ones understand what will be possible from April 26 and what we need them to do to help support that.”
Some restrictions on visiting will be essential for "some time to come” the health secretary added.
Extra funding will be provided to support virtual visiting, however, no confirmation was given on how much funding will be introduced.
Since the start of lockdown, visits to hospital wards have been suspended unless a patient is reaching the end of their lives or in other “exceptional circumstances.”
Ms Freeman said that imposing these restrictions had been “one of the most difficult decisions” the Scottish Government had to take but has been “essential” in protecting patients and staff and minimising the spread of the virus.
Additional funding was also announced for GP practices with dedicated advisors to be distributed across the 150 most deprived practices in Scotland by September.
Advisors will help patients with issues such as benefit eligibility, debt resolution, employability and housing.
The news of visiting and extra funding comes as the Health Secretary announced that the NHS Louisa Jordan will be closed from March 31.
The £38m hospital at the Scottish Event Campus was built in just two weeks at the beginning of lockdown amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed, however, it has never been used for covid patients.