CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Daughter of coronavirus victim: What will make you take it seriously?

'Don't be selfish, don't be stupid, listen to the guidelines'

26 March, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The 74-year-old was looked after by “amazing staff” at the Royal Free

THE daughter of one of Camden’s first victims of coronavirus has urged anyone who doubts its threat to wake up to the brutal reality of the pandemic, while praising brave NHS workers “who are putting their own lives at risk for us”.

She told the New Journal how in less than two weeks her “completely self-sufficient” mother had rapidly deteriorated before being placed on a morphine drip in palliative care at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

The daughter, who wanted her family to remain anonymous after talking to her children but is well known in Kentish Town, was told by doctors on Tuesday that her mother would not survive the virus and that her death was imminent.

She criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the crisis, revealed strict measures are in place at the Royal Free’s A&E department, described those who are stockpiling food as “savages” but saluted supermarket staff and “all the lowest paid people who are saving this world right now”.

In a sobering message to those making light of coronavirus advice, including a historic government order to stay indoors, she said: “Does one of your family members have to get it and die for you to wake up? Do you want that to happen just because you can’t follow a few rules from professionals? Don’t be selfish, don’t be stupid. Listen to the government guidelines.”

Mr Johnson made an unprecedented broadcast to the nation on Monday evening when he said the spread of the virus could only be slowed down if people did not go out.

Most retail stores have closed down, while movement should be restricted to essential shopping or one form of exercise a day. Travel to key worker places of employment is also allowed.

Last night (Wednesday) the number of confirmed deaths in UK was 465 – up 28 on the day before. Professor Hugh Montgomery, who has been working at the Whittington Hospital, said all beds there could be filled by the end of the weekend as the battle continues to avoid a repeat of Italy’s experience where the health system became overwhelmed and more than 7,500 people have died.

The Italians are currently living under a stricter lockdown than the UK, while in France people need paperwork to go outside.

The daughter of the woman who died at the Royal Free added: “When you’ve seen your mum, who has never let you down – and has never walked away from you – like that, and to not be able to sit with her in her final days. I am absolutely heartbroken. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

A funeral will not take place due to social distancing rules and the ban on group gatherings.

Speaking of staff on the frontline she had seen working with virus patients, the daughter said: “We are so lucky to have the NHS. In other countries, poor people wouldn’t have had the insurance. The NHS workers have been absolutely amazing.

“I have not met one who has been hard work, or difficult to get information from. All have been putting themselves over and beyond. They are working so hard, sometimes not eating and they are not getting to see their families, too.”

“But look around you – it is the lowest paid people, the hospital workers, the carers, the cleaners, the delivery drivers, the factory workers, the supermarket staff, they are the ones putting their lives at risk for us. I look at these mega-rich people giving out the orders, what the f**k are they doing to help? It is all the lowest paid who are saving this world.”


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It is not clear where the woman, 74, contracted the virus. Her daughter said she had begun to feel unwell after a trip to shops in South End Green.

She said: “She felt really fatigued. She couldn’t get out of bed. She didn’t want to talk, or watch TV. She didn’t have a temperature, but she was coughing. We took her to the hospital and they could hear crackling in her lungs. They gave her strong antibiotics, her oxygen levels had dropped to very low.”

Describing the A&E at the Pond Street hospital, which is split in two for coronavirus cases and other emergencies, she said: “It was 100 per cent everyone wearing masks, being protective. They made sure I had a mask. The A&E was split by trolleys, the kind you push with files in. It was really strict about who could go in. Everything was being cleaned. It was so organised, so well managed. When the test results came back, I had a breakdown. ”

“She had been fighting so much already. But the nurse explained it to me and got a chair for me. Then a doctor came out and explained more. And someone who wasn’t even near us, another nurse in civvies, came over with a bottle of water for me. They explained we couldn’t visit because they don’t want it to spread. I got a phone call at 2am on Sunday morning, saying she had gone downhill.”

The woman’s daughter, herself a long-standing community worker who has lived in Kentish Town her whole life, criticised the sluggish response from the Prime Minister that she said had fuelled the public’s blasé approach to crucial health advice.

She said: “Boris Johnson could have acted a lot quicker. I’m not saying my mum would have definitely got well if he had, but… the schools should have been shut quicker. If people don’t listen, how do they expect the world to heal? We have been behaving like savages with the stockpiling of shopping, at the expense of the elderly and vulnerable who could not get what they need. Before Mum went into hospital, the shelves were empty. People were pushing and being rude to staff. People should be ashamed.”

Although the virus is most dangerous to pensioners and people with underlying health conditions, a man in his late 20s is reportedly among the people from Camden who have died since the outbreak escalated, though this could not be verified last night (Wednesday).

At least 12 people who had tested positive for the virus at UCH have died.

Other hospitals are not releasing figures. Mr Johnson said on Monday night: “I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to. But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.”

He added: “Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together to halt the spread of this disease, to protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives. And I know that, as they have in the past so many times, the people of this country will rise to that challenge and we will come through it stronger than ever.”

“We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together. Therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”

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