Care homes will be allocated tests for Covid-19 which relatives and friends will be able to take before they visit.
If they test negative, they will be able to see their loved ones again without needing to do so outdoors or through a window.
Government guidelines were updated today to reflect the new system, which will be in place to allow visits before Christmas.
The new guidance states: ‘We are distributing rapid (lateral flow) tests to care homes across the country to be used for visitors.
‘Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered care homes will receive these tests during December and have sufficient quantities to test up to 2 visitors per resident, twice a week by Christmas.
‘Visitors will need to arrange visiting with the care home in advance, and will need to be mindful of the additional workload for the care home and that the care home will need to make their own assessments and may develop further policies to ensure the safety of the residents they care for and their staff.’
More than a million tests will be sent to care home providers over the next month which will enable safe indoor visits, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
It is important for visitors to minimise contact as much as possible and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to help protect their loved ones, the DHSC added.
An extra 46 million items of free PPE will be sent to Care Quality Commission-registered providers.
Visits will be able to take place across all tiers, and will start on Wednesday.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.
‘I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas.
‘This news has been made possible by the unprecedented strides made in testing technology and capacity, as well as extra personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.’
Care minister Helen Whately said: ‘It is impossible to eliminate risk entirely, but now thanks to an enormous expansion of testing capacity and a huge delivery of free PPE we can help to more safely reunite families throughout December.’
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.