Hugging will resume in England's care homes thanks to the rollout of rapid testing for visitors from Wednesday, it has been confirmed.

But not everyone will get a visit before Christmas, and full PPE, gloves, gowns and masks, will still be required.

The new guidance follows months of heartbreak in care homes, the best of which saw visitors separated from loved ones through windows.

Over the weekend, the possibility of hugging loved ones was put into doubt following a release from the Cabinet Office which said that, in the case of negative tests and wearing appropriate visitors would be allowed to "visitors to have physical contact with their loved one, such as providing personal care and holding hands".

In addition to this, Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, admitted he would not encourage anyone to hug, or kiss elderly relatives.

From Wednesday, hugs are set to resume in care homes thanks to testing, wearing PPE and other measures

However, it has now been confirmed.

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.

Visits will be able to take place across all tiers, and the first visits 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."

The lateral flow tests return results in around half an hour and are being used as apart of wider community mass testing

The lateral flow testing, which is being used across mass community testing programmes across England, delivers a result in half an hour and is to be used within care homes.

Helen Whately, care minister, has pledged that the rollout of these tests will be complete by Christmas.

This is despite the fact that some health chiefs in Sheffield and Liverpool have questioned its effectiveness.

Sheffield City Council told care homes “when used in practice, the performance … appears to show an unacceptably high risk of not correctly detecting infected individuals”.

Similarly, Liverpool council has delayed the start of its programme, saying the tests “may not be safe enough” with the council insisting visitors will undergo two tests 24 hours apart.

Some councils have raised doubts of the tests and feasibility of the project given its deadline (stock image)

The rollout of the lateral flow tests will follow a two-week trial in 20 care homes in the south of England, but Care England has warned relatives that this testing will take a while to be entrenched, and this is one of a number of control measures.

Some of the larger care homes across the country have already received deliveries of the lateral flow tests.

But, the logistical challenge of supplying more than 15,000 care homes across England in less than three weeks does pose a challenge to meet Whately's deadline.