This picture shows an elderly couple who have been married for more than 60 years holding hands at a care home – for the first time in EIGHT months.
Shirley and Freddie Lowe, both 79, have been kept apart and not been able to touch each other since March to avoid the risk of coronavirus spreading through the home.
Their emotional reunion was captured by staff at King Charles Court care home and was made possible after it was selected as one of 20 across the UK trialling a new rapid test system.
They had barely been apart during their 63-year marriage and Shirley continued to visit her husband every day at his care home in Falmouth, Cornwall, before the pandemic struck.
Visits were totally banned between March and July and then from August to November with only socially distanced ones allowed in-between.
But the rapid coronavirus test, which gives a result within 30 minutes, has allowed a series of reunions to take place.
Manager of the home Melissa Jones described the embrace between Shirley and Freddie as a deeply moving moment that had offered a glimmer of light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.
She said: “Shirley and Freddie are such a lovely couple. Before the pandemic Shirley was here most days and would spend any time she could with him. They are just so in love and are like they have just been married.
“They have such a happy, wonderful marriage that is really special and have been missing each other terribly.
“They have stayed in touch and had some brief visits, probably a handful, in August but it was in communal areas with screens set up.
“This has been their first contact since March. They were able to hold hands and have some privacy.
“It was the first time they were able to hold hands since March and that meant everything to them.
“Freddie is such a lovely gentleman, but he had a different kind of smile on show – one he saves just for his wife.”
The couple were married aged 19 and honeymooned in Paris. They returned there 50 years later to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary where he surprised her with an eternity ring.
Melissa said the reunions they had been able to facilitate had been a joy.
She added: “We had a week’s notice from the government to get it started and pulled out all stops to make it happen.
“It has been great and we have had 12-13 visitors since Wednesday. There is no time limit and they can stay as long as they like. We don’t monitor the visitors and they can spend time in private rooms.
“This was the first start of a little bit of normality coming back. Walking down the corridor to hear one of the residents finally laughing inside our home was absolutely lovely.
“It has been a very stressful time for everyone. The fear of Covid coming into the home, the worry of not sourcing enough PPE and trying to keep everyone safe. It has been a horrible time, but we are now hopeful of getting back to some sort of normality.
“People are now able to come in and have a meaningful visit and we feel we are almost getting there. We are starting to see progress and this being a success that can be rolled out across the country.
“We are one of 20 care homes trialling this but with good results hopefully it can be rolled out in time for Christmas.”
“Their adoration for each other is truly wonderful to witness.”
Shirley said: “It was so wonderful to see him and hold his hand. I was so pleased and grateful for everything the home has done to make this happen.”
Mother Janet Gwynne, who lives at the care home, and her daughter Catherine Evans were also reunited on Friday.
Catherine said: “Being able to see my mum after so long is absolutely amazing. The respect I have for everyone at King Charles Court is through the roof.
“The test was completed so professionally, and I am so grateful for this day.”