Dozens of residents at a Leeds care home were able to embrace their loved ones on Christmas Day after a rapid results trial allowed visits from family members and friends.
Aspen Hill Village in Hunslet, south Leeds, hosted more than 70 close contact family visits on Friday morning after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus, which produce results within 30 minutes.
Family members clad in personal protective equipment (PPE) – including gowns, gloves and masks – and laden with gifts and flowers hugged and chatted with elderly relatives during a two-hour visiting window.
To bring festive joy for the occasion, activities co-ordinator Claire Paver welcomed visitors while 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 Mr McKimm had had a Covid-19 test after contracting the virus in September.
He made the care home visit with his mother Mary Orme, who was also able to see Ms McKimm on Christmas Eve.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he 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.