A COUPLE have been reunited for the first time in a year after being separated because of the pandemic.

Flo and Harry McNeilly, from Darlington, were able to see each other for the first time and hold hands on Monday, when the rules around visits to care homes changed.

Mrs McNeilly, 92, is a resident at Eden Cottage Care Home, while her husband of 67 years, who is 91, lives at their family home in Maxwell Close.

Mr McNeilly said: “I have waited a year to be able to visit my wife face to face and it feels absolutely wonderful."

Mrs McNeilly added: “After what has been a very long year, to finally be able to hold my husband’s hand means the absolute world to me."

Since Monday, care home residents are allowed one nominated regular visitor to their care homes, marking the first stage of lockdown restrictions easing in England.

The visitor will be allowed to enter the care home where the resident is living for regular visits, provided they have completed an asymptomatic test, received a negative test result, and wear the appropriate PPE.

Joanne Wedge, registered manager at Eden Cottage Care Home, said: “We are over the moon to finally reunite Flo and Harry, after what has been a very difficult year for all of us.

“Flo and Harry have been married for an incredible 67 years and we all felt quite emotional during their first visit. We are delighted to have been able to keep Flo and the rest of our residents safe during the pandemic to enable us to facilitate these reunions – it has been a very special day."

Visitors to care homes are reminded to make sure they do not have any Covid-19 symptoms before planning their visit. These include a continuous cough, a high temperature and loss of taste and smell.

Penny Spring, director of Public Health at Darlington Borough Council, said: “We’re delighted to hear the wonderful story of Mr and Mrs McNeilly being re-united after a year at one of the town’s care homes.It must have been difficult to be separated for so long, but the dedication of the care home staff to protecting their residents is truly admirable and should be celebrated alongside the wonderful couple.

“We remind all Darlington residents that before they visit a loved one at a care home in Darlington, they must first have no Covid-19 symptoms, take an asymptomatic test and wear the appropriate PPE. All Darlington residents can book a test before their visit at one of our six community testing sites to ensure their visit is as safe and enjoyable as possible.”

Community tests at Darlington’s testing sites must be booked.

Appointments are available seven days a week and can only be booked by visiting the Council’s website: www.darlington.gov.uk/testing

Tests can also be provided by the care home before the visit.