MAJOR changes have been introduced to the rules around visiting care homes in Wales.

Today, Mark Drakeford set out the changes as part of his three-week review into the nation’s handling of the ongoing covid pandemic.

While much of the briefing today was centred around PCR testing, and plans for the winter months, the first minister announced a major change to visiting care homes – in what will come as a major boost to those looking to visit loved ones.

Currently, anyone looking to visit must take a lateral flow test on arrival to a care facility.

But, moving forward, visitors may be able to take these lateral flow tests at home before travelling.

This would save a wasted journey should a test return positive – and prevent any heartbreak of being turned away at the door.

Ultimately though, this decision will come at the discretion of care home staff, and the care home providers themselves.

However, this is not the only change announced.

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What other care home visiting changes has been announced?

Along with the change to accessing care homes, major changes have been introduced once inside.

The biggest, relates to social distancing.

While social distancing remains a vital part of Wales’s efforts in combating the virus, visitors will no longer have to socially distance from their loved ones in two situations.

These are while inside a resident’s room, or when visiting them in a designated visiting room.

Perhaps most importantly for many families, this means hugging is allowed once more.

For the first time since the pandemic, restrictions regarding bringing gifts inside care homes is also being lifted.

This includes food and drink – making it possible to bring treats in to loved ones.

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What has been said about the changes?

Confirming the changes, first minister Mark Drakeford said: “Care homes and care home visiting have been among the most challenging issues during the pandemic.

"From today onwards, care home providers will have the discretion to allow visitors to take lateral flow tests at home, rather than at the care home.

"They will no longer have to ask visitors to socially distance when making a visit to a resident's room, or in a designated visiting room.

"Restrictions around gifts, including food and drink, will also be eased."

These changes are said to be effective immediately.