Owen and Bredge Ward, who had been married for 48 years, passed away within hours of each other from COVID-19 on November 16. Both had been diagnosed with the coronavirus in early October. 

The Belfast Telegraph reports that four weeks ago, when their conditions deteriorated, the couple had been transferred from Strabane, in Co Tyrone to Altnagelvin Hospital, in Co Derry. 

Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland, their son Martin described how he held his father's hands while he died, as his other siblings were at the funeral parlor with his mother. 

"This is what the disease does – it can be mild or it can devastate lives,” he told BBC Northern Ireland.

“Within hours, my mum, who was improving, just went downhill. Maybe it was the shock. Fast forward a week and my father was improving and my mother was getting worse.

“She passed away yesterday, then my father, from a position where he was getting better, just completely collapsed and within a couple of hours of my mother dying, he passed away too.”

Martin, who works as a nurse in Galway, said that despite the best efforts of the hospital staff his parents had "completely collapsed" within hours. 

“That’s just how it is. That’s the hurt and suffering that this caused to different families and the same message that we need to get across is just look after people, adhere to the guidelines, and care about other people,” he said.

A joint funeral was held for the couple at St Mary's Church, Melmount on November 18. There, parish priest Michael Doherty said: "Now their coffins are in the place where on 9 February 1972, they promised to love each other truly in sickness and in health, till death do us part. But death did not part them."

Father Doherty added: "They were most happy when spending time with family and each other, doing simple things from going for walks together, Owen spending time with the dogs or Bredge reading, baking, and knitting.

"The love of their lives was their ever-growing family – children and grandchildren."

On Tuesday, November 17, the Northern Ireland Department of Health reports 331 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with another 14 deaths related to the coronavirus. The total death toll in Northern Ireland stands at 869, with 47,162 cases. 

COVID restrictions have been extended in Northern Ireland for another week, while certain sectors will be allowed to open next week.