An elderly husband and wife cruelly forced apart by the pandemic were finally able to cuddle for the first time in nine months.

Bob Underhill, 84, was overcome when he was reunited with wife Patricia, 82, who has Alzheimer’s, as the couple shared a tearful kiss through face masks today.

Patricia has been living in a care home in London since March after breaking her hip, meaning Bob could no longer look after her.

But when Covid-19 spread rapidly through care homes at the start of the UK’s outbreak, Bob was one of many who couldn’t see his wife for months – and when he could, they weren’t even able to hold hands.

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Their emotional reunion at Chiswick Nursing Centre happened after care homes were finally able to give visitors rapid coronavirus turnaround tests which give results in 30 minutes.

Bob said: ‘I’ve only seen her twice since March because they had a shutdown here, and we just had to sit and wait.

‘I did come and see her last Friday through the partitions, which is not very pleasant; it is not the same being three metres apart.’

The couple were part of 400 large care homes who have been sent the rapid test kits, meaning the first visits could take place today as long as people tested negative.

Serena Snelling also took a test before seeing her mother Theresa, who has been in a home since late February.

Serena said: ‘It’s been really challenging not being able to see her. I was her primary carer… so we were very close.

They emotionally embraced and held each other tightly for a long time, with Theresa saying their reunion ‘feels great’.

‘We love each other very much. It feels really good and it feels like a long time coming,’ said Serena.

A pilot version of the scheme meant Sylvia Knight was also finally able to visit her ex-husband Richard, who is living at Bereweeke Court Care in Winchester.

She said: ‘It was wonderful. I’d do this test everyday if it meant I could see him.’ 

She said: ‘I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. It was emotional. Although it was only seven weeks, I feel so sorry for all the relatives who have gone months and months without seeing their loved ones.’ 

Care home residents and staff, along with the over-80s, will be among the first in line for vaccination after Britain became the first country in the world to approve Pfizer’s breakthrough jab.

But Chief Executive of NHS England, Professor Simon Stevens, said tonight that care home residents may have to wait a little longer for their first jab due to the logistical difficulties of storing and transporting the vaccine.

Prof Stevens said the Government is working to roll out the first doses to care homes as soon as it is ‘legally and technically possible’ and residents will have to wait until it is confirmed that batches of the vaccine can be safely divided.

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Some 17,319 people have died of coronavirus in care homes in Britain up to the week ending November 20, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, that figure doesn’t account for residents who were moved to hospitals before dying.

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