Life on the front line of the fight against coronavirus – doctors, undertakers and other key workers tell all – The Sun


LIFE in lockdown Britain has seen some shameful behaviour — from yobs coughing and spitting at emergency services to selfish panic buyers stripping supermarket shelves.

But amid the chaos, our country's brave key workers are relentlessly working to keep the nation's vital services in action.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates


Boris Johnson last night used a historic address to the people of Britain to tell them they must now stay home, with new police powers in place to enforce the strict rules.

The announcement was met with panic and confusion from some and outright defiance from others — including shameless pub landlords organising secret lock-ins.

But despite the thoughtlessness of many, our hard-working nurses, teachers and undertakers are continuing to go above and beyond the call of duty to keep you and your loved ones safe and secure.

Sun Online will be bringing you their stories from the front line fight against the coronavirus each day this week.

Here are the latest developments following Boris' landmark lockdown decision.

The teacher: ‘We left out sandwiches for kids who get free lunches – but only two parents came'

Gemma Woodall, 32, works as a primary school teacher in the village of Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in Yorkshire.

She says: “The kids are finding it really strange.

I was shocked yesterday because we’ve been asked by the Government to make sure all kids that are eligible for free school dinners are still given them.

We ordered 50 sandwich packs and left them at the gates, but only two families came.

Now we have all these packs left, so we’re asking people to collect them for the elderly and vulnerable in the area.

You just think, people are complaining they can’t get bread and milk… we can’t let these go to waste.

Then we are still hearing from parents at home. One teacher got an email last night from a parent asking us to mark work if they sent photos through.

You just think, ‘We are quite busy at the moment!’

There are long term worries too, what do we do at the end of this?

The kids have missed an entire term. And what happens to Year Six’s? Do they not go to secondary school?
A few of my children have asked what’s happening and it can make you feel quite helpless.”

The plumber: 'Self-employed people can't survive on £94 a week – they have to work'

Peter Booth, 38, from Leicestershire is a self-employed plumber running his family business GV Booth, with help from his 69-year-old dad – who manages the company’s office work.

He says: “There’s so much confusion from last night.

I’m in quite a few WhatsApp groups and there were a lot of arguments when some guys said they’d have to keep working and others disagreed.

Some who know they can’t survive on £94-a-week will insist on working still.

It’s very hard for Boris Johnson, but we just need some guidance.

I’m now only doing emergencies myself. Today I’ve got an 86-year-old man that’s got no heating or hot water — so it’s urgent.

It’s going to be very much down to interpretation.

Then the other thing is my main merchants has closed today for 24 hours to decide what to do.

So if I go to this job today and can’t get the parts for the older man, he may have to wait more than 24 hours without hot water.

I’d be happy to sit at home today, with my phone on, then if I get an emergency I can plan it properly and go.

You can also make sure your kit is all disinfected, your hands are washed, but if you’re rushing between jobs then you might become a bit lax.”

The chef: 'We've been so touched by people'

Sam Oxley, 31, isa senior sous chef at Italian restaurant Forza Win, in Peckham, South London. 

He says: "I was so relieved after the restaurant shut down and we began work straight away to create a new delivery menu.

It was a relief to have something to concentrate on.

A lot of suppliers, now that there are no restaurants to supply, are also in trouble, so the knock on effect has been huge.

We had planned to launch a new service straight away, delivering a menu including fresh pasta and sauces that could be put together and cooked at home.

However, the difficult decision was taken that we needed a week out first to take stock, ensure we were social distancing, and were all healthy ourselves before starting.

But everything is changing so rapidly. With heavy hearts following Boris’ lockdown announcement last night, the decision has now been made not to go ahead with deliveries at all.

These are extraordinary times, and while it’s shown the worst in some people, with stockpiling, it’s shown the best in others.

Our customers have bought hundreds of pounds worth of vouchers to show their support to us.

It’s so touching to see how much customers appreciate the meals we cook.

I can speak for every small business when I say: your support means so much."

The front line doctor: 'Don't contact us if it's not urgent'

Dr Murray Ellender, 46, is a London-based GP and co-founder of eConsult.

He says: “There are pregnant doctors who are now going to have to come back to work.

It’s really difficult – we need all the workforce we can get on the frontline.

Yesterday was really busy and we had a number of doctors cancel last minute.

Either they were unwell or had family members with symptoms which meant they had to self-isolate, which is not their fault.

My colleague Clare Gerada, who had Covid-19 and has since recovered, is now helping out with patient care but not seeing the patients face-to-face.

Those doctors who’ve had it can go back to work feeling a bit more confident they’re not going to get ill. Clare’s a super doctor!

The key message I’m trying to get out to all patients is that they can do their bit, too.

Across the UK, GPs have 7,000 practices which deal with a million patient contacts a day. So if it’s not urgent, don’t contact us.

If you think you need to see a GP, don’t necessarily think you have to come into the building.

Cases we saw yesterday and dealt with remotely were things like patients with rashes or eczema, female patients with urinary tract infections, even things like mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

We’re seeing a lot of patient anxiety, understandably. But those cases we can manage remotely.

Go on your practice site rather than calling your GP – we need to keep phone lines open for elderly patients who aren't online."

The carer: ‘Last night was a bit of a panic'

Shannon Summerfield, 20, is a support worker with not-for-profit Dimensions in Cardiff. The organisation offers help to those with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour and complex needs.

She says: "I thought the lockdown was the right decision – it’s just quite worrying because it’s something we’ve never seen before.

We’re going to be giving all our ladies’ families a call today as they all probably quite upset about the news.

We’re going to make sure those in our care are well looked after and supported as best we can.

A few of the ladies here are quite vulnerable and are very high risk. I think it’s best they stay in the house.

One of them is very prone to chest infections and she has very complex needs. She has sleep apnea, epilepsy, and her breathing is not the best.

Another one of our ladies has dementia and her breathing isn’t great either.

We’re just trying to keep them as safe as we can.

My mum, a nurse, will have to be in work more now. She’s going to have loads of staff off with isolation, so she’ll probably be working a lot more.

Last night I was quite worried, it was a bit of a panic.

My work is on the same road I live on, so in my head I was just thinking, ‘I’m only going to be seeing one road for the next few weeks!’

I’m thinking about people’s mental health as well, which might deteriorate because of this lockdown."

The undertaker: ‘We have safety gear ready for funerals'

Raegan Drew, 30, is a funeral director for the Co-op Funeralcare in Edinburgh.

She says: “As funeral providers we have a social responsibility so, because of the stricter enforcement last night, we have decided to cut the number of mourners to ten, down from 25.

Obviously the situation changes hourly and daily, so that number could change.

We saw a huge drop in the amount of people attending from the middle of last week and this week more people seem to be making the decision for themselves and not attending.

I conducted just one funeral yesterday and only a handful of people were there, because more people are self-isolating and taking advantage of the web services.

Crematoriums are moving us to bigger chapels where they can to help people stay further apart, and we are encouraging social distancing.

This is not the funeral many people would have wished or planned for so we are now offering families a memorial service at a later date to celebrate their loved ones.

We have been issued guidelines for dealing with a coronavirus death and we have Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to deal with that, although I haven’t personally used it yet.

We are calling our families on a daily basis to update them, and everyone has been very understanding.

The message has hit home – safety first.”

The social worker: ‘I am furious with people using public transport’

Katie*, 34, is a social worker, supporting vulnerable young adults between 18-25, many of whom have left the care or prison system, and often have severe mental health issues.

She says: “This morning has been filled with dealing with the aftermath of the lockdown announcement yesterday, and there’s a lot more anxiety among the vulnerable young people, and staff too.

Our managers need to know where we’re staying, and how long it will take us to get into work in an emergency.

We’ve been told we now need to carry ID paperwork if we have to travel.

I’m so upset and angry at people getting public transport unnecessarily — if I have to travel for work the least people could do is stay home to limit the risk of passing the infection on to key workers.

We’re worried because our most vulnerable won’t be able to see us, so we have to give them details on support lines and online information instead.

There’s a phrase — ‘flight, fight or freeze’ and unfortunately so far my young people are frozen.

I’m so upset and angry at people getting public transport unnecessarily.

They don’t know what to do. I’ve had a phone call from a lad who called up Universal Credit to see if he could get an advance payment but because he’d already had one recently he can’t.

He only has £5 left on his electric and only has frozen food, so I now need to sort out food parcels and ensure he’s OK.

My biggest worry is how the young people I look after with mental health issues will cope with isolation — I've been calling them everyday and doing what I can.

In happy news, following our plea on Facebook for a car seat for the baby due imminently, we got one yesterday, and so many people have also generously made donations so if we have any further emergencies and need to buy any products we're covered — it’s uplifting to know there are people who want to help.”

The childminder: ‘Kids are a nightmare with toilet roll’

Kirsty Gage, 26, is a childminder from Kettering, Northamptonshire. She lives with partner Lewis and their son, Tommy, one.

“Usually I take the children to play groups, the library and the park, but under the lockdown we can’t do that so I think cabin fever will be high over the next few weeks.

Thankfully I have a garden which is kitted out for the kids but I have some from 8am to 6pm and that’s a long time to keep them amused.

I’m also limiting the toys because I have to deep clean them every night.

Today they have a tray of blocks, a kitchen set, a wooden puzzle, the toys in the garden, and they’ll do painting or drawing.

Tonight I’ll put everything in a bath full of Milton sterilising fluid for a deep clean, the blocks will go in the dishwasher and ball pit balls in the washing machine.

They bring their own packed lunches so I don’t have to worry about food supplies.

Kids are a nightmare with toilet roll – they never use it sparingly – so I’m going to have to be on them, but I have plenty at the moment!

My biggest worry is the coronavirus coming into the house.

One of my key worker children goes to school and when I picked him up yesterday, he said there were just 15 kids there.

I could see them in the playground and they weren’t being kept apart, they were playing as normal.

Today they are joining with the infant school and that will be more kids together, which worries me.

I can’t afford not to have him, and his mum needs me to have him, but I am deeply concerned he could bring the coronavirus into the house.”

*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

 

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