More than 70 close contact family visits took place at Aspen Hill Village in Hunslet, south Leeds, on Christmas morning after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus, which produce results within 30 minutes.
Many residents have waited nine months to be able to embrace their loved ones.
Family members clad in personal protective equipment (PPE) – including gowns, gloves and masks – and carrying gifts and flowers hugged and chatted with elderly relatives during a two-hour visiting window.
Activities co-ordinator Claire Paver welcomed visitors dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and hat, and one care home resident awaited the arrival of her family in a reindeer headband.
Michael McKimm was able to see his grandmother, Rose McKimm, for the first time since February.
It was the second time he has undergone a Covid-19 test after contracting the virus in September.
He was accompanied his mother Mary Orme, who was also able to see Ms McKimm on Christmas Eve.
Mr McKimm said: ‘It was fantastic, it pretty much made Christmas for me just to see her, it was great.
‘It was very emotional for my mum, she cried a lot.’
Navjot Singh, director at Aspen Hill Village, said: ‘This year has been difficult for the whole country, but for those people living in care homes, or with loved ones in care homes, it has been even more so.
‘For some of our residents, it’s been over nine months since they’ve been able to hold hands, or have a hug, with their loved ones.
‘That’s why the lateral flow tests, which allow us to test visitors on the day to make sure they don’t have the virus, are so exciting.
‘It means that today, on Christmas Day, we have been able to reunite over 70 families for a much-needed hug, cup of tea and chat.
‘It’s brought a smile to everyone’s faces and ends a very difficult year on a high.
‘For our staff, who have tried their best to make life as normal as possible for the people they care for, it represents a bit of hope that our residents will have more normality in 2021.’
Lateral flow tests were rolled out to care homes in England to help enable close contact visits and combat isolation among residents.
On Wednesday the Department of Health and Social Care announced care home staff in England will receive two rapid result tests a week in addition to regular testing to help keep the new coronavirus variant at bay.
Millions of people across the UK have been spending a historic Christmas Day largely kept apart from loved ones.
The country had hoped to be taking advantage of a five-day relaxation of social restrictions to meet family members and friends indoors.
But the emergence of the faster-spreading variant forced the Prime Minister to axe much of the planned relaxations amid fears family get-togethers would see infection rates soar further.
Residents already in tier four areas, such as those in south-east England and London, will not be able to meet with people outside their own household or support bubble.
It means just those in tiers one, two and three will be allowed to meet, limited to three households, on Christmas Day only.
Further woes await from a minute past midnight on Boxing Day when new tier changes come into force, meaning those under the strict tier four in England will increase to 24 million people.
It will mean 43% of the population will go back to living under conditions similar to those imposed in the national lockdown last month.
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