Spanish nursing home residents greet friends, family from behind windows

BARCELONA (Reuters) - From behind the large windows of Barcelona's Centre Parc nursing home, elderly residents blow kisses, give virtual hugs and speak to loved ones on the other side of the glass using mobile phones.

Restrictions on visits are still in place across Spain as it reels from a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, but for visitors, the regular interaction beats the experience of only seeing residents on a computer screen.

"They no longer see a screen, a small square. They really see how their family member is doing," said the nursing home's director, Eduardo Badia.

In-person visits are permitted, but only occasionally and they are carried out in the residence's garden to help visitors respect social distancing rules.

An 89-year-old woman smiles as she pretends to play with a dog her neighbors have brought for her to see through the ground floor window of the home's communal room.

"It's contradictory; happy on the one hand and frustrating on the other hand," said Cristina, 68, after seeing her 94-year-old mother, who survived the coronavirus.

Every day makes it harder not to have the close contact she had before the pandemic, when she visited her mother every night.

"The time when you will be able to kiss her or caress her seems further away all the time," she said.

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Spain brought the first wave of coronavirus cases largely under control through a strict lockdown ending in June.

But the country has seen a sharp rise in infections in recent weeks, meaning some restrictions have been reimposed including limiting gatherings and access to nursing homes.

Still, care homes are no longer a major source of new infections, unlike the initial surge in March when many of those who died of COVID-19 were elderly residents.

In Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is located, close to 90% of homes have no cases, health data show.

(Reporting by Jordi Rubio and Nacho Doce, Writing by Joan Faus, Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Mike Collett-White)

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