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Plastic keeps virus, not love away from Spain nursing home

BARCELONA, Spain — Even when it comes wrapped in plastic, a hug can convey tenderness, relief, love and devotion.

The fear that gripped Agustina Canamero during the 102 days she and her 84-year-old husband spent physically separated during Spain’s coronavirus outbreak dissolved the moment the couple embraced through a screen of plastic film.

Pascual Perez, her husband, lives at a nursing home in Barcelona, one of the many that locked out visitors to try to shield their residents as the coronavirus killed so many elderly Spaniards.

Canamero, 81, stayed during the country’s nationwide lockdown at the home she and Perez used to share. During their 59 years of marriage, the couple had never spent so many days apart.

So when the Ballesol Puig i Fabra nursing home allowed visits to resume with the addition of protective screens, Canamero was among the first to arrive. The husband and wife kissed for minutes through the thin layer of plastic — and their face masks.

Their tearful reunion was repeated several times throughout the day by others, washing other residents, visitors and even misty-eyed health care workers with waves of healing energy.

Beatriz Segura carefully put on long gloves before reaching her arms through two holes in the plastic film to hug her 96-year-old mother at Ballesol Puig i Fabra. It was their first in-person encounter since March 15.

As members of the nursing home’s staff sobbed from a respectful distance, mother and daughter talked. Segura said she was looking forward to take her mother, Isabel Lopez, out to eat at a restaurant. Lopez replied that her first priority was getting to a beauty salon.

Dolores Reyes, 61, and her father, Jose Reyes, 87, also were together for the first time in nearly four months. In their eagerness, they pulled down the screen while reaching for each other.

Representatives of Ballesol Puig i Fabra wouldn’t disclose how many residents had fallen ill with COVID-19 or died during the outbreak, citing an ongoing judicial investigation. Spain’s nursing homes were hit particularly hard by the virus, which has exacted a nationwide death toll of at least 28,300.

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