A couple separated by the pandemic who were finally granted an exception to get married in the UK have hit another roadblock.

Australian Chris Quealy, 72, was given permission earlier this month to leave the country to marry Penny Steven, 69, from Amersham, after he proposed virtually this year.

The country has banned its citizens from leaving to keep Covid cases as close to zero as possible.

Initially, the couple were thrilled, with Penny saying she was “on cloud nine”.

But their plans have hit another snag as Chris, who lives in New South Wales, has to go to Brisbane, Queensland, to get to the visa office – but is unable to cross the border because of the Covid situation and various lockdowns preventing citizens from travelling even within certain parts of Australia.

Penny told the Bucks Free Press: “Chris needs a UK marriage visa before he can come over, but because of the situation there, he can’t get over the border to get to the visa office to get everything approved.

“He had to apply online and then make an appointment at the visa office with this company that does biometrics.

“We were hoping to get married in November but we’ve had to put it back to January.

“We don’t even know if he can get here at the moment. He can book a flight but he can’t get on it because he can’t get his visa or even get to the airport.

“No-one is being at all helpful. All we really want is for him to come over here so we can be together.

“It feels like it’s been given with one hand and taken away with the other. It’s been so stressful.”

The couple had to book a wedding before they could apply for the visa – which they did.

But the country’s tough border rules mean it has been difficult to get things moving, putting a huge dampener on their plans.

Grandmother-of-seven Penny met Chris in 2015 when she was walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and they fell in love.

They visited each other regularly over the next five years and Penny returned to the UK from her last visit in February 2020.

Chris was due to follow but coronavirus and lockdowns put an end to that plan – with the pair suffering a “very tough” 18 months apart.

Strictly Come Dancing star Anton du Beke even offered to choreograph the couple’s first dance when they appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show earlier this year to talk about their failed attempts to get a visa for Chris.

An emotional Penny added: “I couldn’t quite believe it when they said we could get accepted for the exemption.

“I was over the moon. I’m not over the moon anymore. It all seems to be going against us at the moment.

“We’ve booked the wedding, I’ve got my dress, and it might not happen now.

“If there’s anyone out there who can help us with this, we’d be so grateful. All we want is to be together.”