After months of isolation, care home residents were reunited with loved ones yesterday as the roll-out of rapid Covid tests got under way.
Families and care workers shed tears of joy as they hugged for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
It came just hours after ministers announced measures aimed at opening care homes to visitors, in a major victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign for families to be reunited by Christmas.
Under guidelines announced on Tuesday, residents can nominate two loved ones to see them twice a week, regardless of which tier they are in.
Adam Purnell, of the Kepplegate home in Preesall, Lancashire, described how his team was reduced to tears after watching an ‘absolutely magical’ family reunion.
Liz Jacques has physical contact with her father Reverend John Cutter, 89, for the first time since Covid began in his room at the Brendon Care Meadway care home in Winchester
The care home manager surprised relatives of Audrey Abram, 90, by saying they were able to hug during a pre-planned visit.
The home has yet to receive rapid tests and instead used its own kits. Mr Purnell was ‘given the reassurance’ to go ahead with face-to-face meetings after Department of Health guidelines said the ‘default position’ is visits should go ahead in all tiers.
But major care home providers said that the advice was ‘reckless’ as they pleaded for more money to implement the testing scheme.
Others said that they had yet to receive any information from the Government about when they could expect to receive testing kits.
Mr Cutter moved into Brendoncare Meadway, St Cross, Winchester, just before the pandemic struck meaning he has had no physical contact with his two daughters in months
A hug? That’s what I’ve longed for
When Reverend John Cutter was told he would be able to hug his daughters, he replied: ‘Hug them? That’s what I’ve been longing to do.’
Mr Cutter moved into Brendoncare Meadway, St Cross, Winchester, just before the pandemic struck meaning he has had no physical contact with his two daughters in months.
The 89-year-old could not contain his glee as he leapt up from his chair to embrace one of his daughters Liz Jacques after she got the all-clear from her test.
In a touching video clip, he bellows: ‘Hello darling, when did we last cuddle?’
His daughter simply replied ‘February’ as they locked their arms around each other.
Liz Jacques takes a coronavirus test before embracing her father John at the Brendon Care Meadway care home in Winchester
Just before the emotional reunion, Mr Cutter told the BBC: ‘It’s going to be heaven because we’ve sat out in the garden with pouring rain or we’ve sat out with lovely sunshine, but today they can come and see me in my room which is like old times.
‘It’s just so natural and so spontaneous to be able to hug as we always have done.’
Miss Jacques added: ‘It’s just amazing, it makes a real difference – it’s a huge difference that human contact. It’s going to be very emotional... it feels really like a step back towards normality.’
Brendoncare Meadway has been one of the pilot schemes that have been slowly rolling out lateral flow tests for its 13 residents over the last two weeks.
Theresa Snelling hugs her daughter Serena as they are allowed to visit with physical contact for the first time at The Chiswick Nursing Centre in London on Wednesday
This is so special!
Serena Snelling has not been able to see her mother Teresa once since March.
So it’s no wonder the 22-year-old was overcome with emotion when she was able to not only just see but to hug her yesterday.
After testing negative for Covid, she ran into her mother’s arms at her care home, the Chiswick Nursing Centre in west London.
She said: ‘It was so special being able to give her a hug. I spent the whole hour basically with her in my arms.
‘We are very close as I was her carer before she went into the care home in February and of course she’s my darling mum and one of the most important people in my life. I love her very much.’
Mrs Snelling, 59, suffers from a degenerative condition brought on by a brain tumour in 2013.
Bob Underhill, 84, and his wife Patricia, 82, suffering from Alzheimer's, kiss through a face mask as they are allowed to visit with physical contact for the first time at The Chiswick Nursing Centre in London on Wednesday
Making up for lost time
This is the emotional moment that Bob Underhill, 84, kisses his wife Patricia for the first time since March.
Mrs Underhill, 82, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, has only seen her husband twice since the pandemic struck.
But yesterday, they were shared a cautious kiss through their masks at the Chiswick Nursing Centre in west London.
Bob Underhill, 84, embraces his wife Patricia for the first time since March the Chiswick Nursing Centre in west London
In heartbreaking pictures, Mr Underhill can be seen tentatively holding his wife’s hand before going in to give her a kiss on the lips.
They were both kitted out in masks, aprons and gloves but they were crucially allowed to touch.
Mr Underhill 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... it is not the same being three metres apart.’
His wife moved into the home in March after breaking her hip, leaving him unable to care for her.