Coronavirus: Family pay tribute to 'wonderful great-grandad'

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Milton Keynes HospitalImage source, AFP/Getty Images

The family of a UK man who died with coronavirus have paid tribute to a "wonderful husband, dad, grandad and great-grandad".

The 83-year-old, the second person to die in the UK after contracting the virus, died shortly after testing positive in hospital on Thursday.

The government is to outline further measures to tackle the outbreak, including powers to help volunteers to care for those who become ill.

It comes as the UK cases rose to 209.

The man, who had underlying health problems, had been admitted to Milton Keynes Hospital for another reason and spent two days in a ward before being isolated and tested for coronavirus, the hospital said.

His family said they were unable to arrange a funeral for him because they were self-isolating.

In a statement, they said: "We as a family have lost a truly loving and wonderful person and are trying to come to terms with this.

"He was 83 years old and a wonderful husband, dad, grandad and great-grandad who would go to any lengths to support and protect his family."

The family said they had been unable to grieve for him as they would have wanted.

"This whole nightmare is not something that we or our loved one asked for.

"As we are in isolation currently, we cannot arrange for him to be put to rest, and with all the activity that is going around with regards to everyone's concerns, we cannot grieve him as we would wish to."

The family said the cause of death had not been confirmed.

They also said they had not spoken to any media outlets before releasing their statement, "contrary to what has been reported".

"People should perhaps put themselves in our shoes and think how would they feel with some of the hurtful comments that are being made. We would not wish this experience on anyone and we would ask that you have respect for us and allow us to grieve."

The man had been travelling but had at first showed no symptoms of coronavirus, the hospital said.

Its chief executive, Prof Joe Harrison, said: "After two days in the hospital they started showing signs of deterioration and at that point we decided to isolate the patient and test them for coronavirus and unfortunately that came back as positive.

"What we were doing was looking after that patient in a bay on one of our wards and subsequent to that we have ensured all of those patients have been followed up, as have the staff, to ensure that they are tested and appropriately isolated."

He said five patients had been isolated and were awaiting coronavirus test results, while nine staff had been asked to self isolate.

The hospital said it had already carried out a review of the patient's care but determined he had been treated appropriately.

Meanwhile, the UK government is set to outline further planned measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak - expected to be included in an upcoming Covid-19 emergency bill.

Under the proposals, court cases could be heard via video links and new powers would make it easier for volunteers to care for those who become ill.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock wants those described as being "skilled, experienced or qualified volunteers" in health and social care settings to be able to do so for up to four weeks if they chose to, without fear of losing their day job.

The measures would also seek to ensure that health staff who return to work out of retirement could do so without impacting their pensions.

The UK's first death - a woman in her 70s who also had underlying health conditions - was confirmed on Thursday. A British man also died last month in Japan after contracting the virus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

As of Saturday morning, there were 206 cases in the UK, with 21,460 being been tested for the virus, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Of these, 184 were in England, 16 in Scotland, four in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.

Later in the evening, Northern Ireland reported an additional three cases, taking its total to seven and bringing the number of confirmed UK cases to 209.

Earlier, England's deputy chief medical officer said the UK remained in the outbreak's "containment" phase.

Jenny Harries told the BBC a decision about the next phase of delaying the spread of the virus would depend on how fast the number of cases rose.

But she said the UK was "teetering on the edge" of sustained transmission.

The UK's strategy on responding to the virus has three phases - containment, delay, and mitigation - alongside ongoing research.

Up until now, the containment phase has involved catching cases early and tracing all close contacts to halt the spread of the disease for as long as possible.

Moving into the delay phase could see the introduction of "social distancing" measures, such as closing schools and urging people to work from home.

Dr Harries said a decision on formally moving to the next phase would depend on how quickly the number of cases rises.

Dr Harries said they needed to "balance the benefits" with minimising disruption to people's lives and the economy, as well as ensuring that they are implemented at the time when they will have the most impact.

In other developments:

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The Grand Princess, one of the world's largest cruise ships, is being held off the Californian coast

The updated figures come as US authorities prepare to respond to a coronavirus-hit cruise ship carrying British passengers off the Californian coast, after 21 people on board tested positive for the illness.

US Vice-President Mike Pence said on Friday that the Grand Princess, carrying more than 3,500 people on board, including 140 Britons, had been directed to a non-commercial port for testing.

Jackie Bissell, from Dartford in Kent, said passengers have had little information about what would happen to them since a note was pushed through their door two days earlier saying the virus may be on the ship.

"You can't go out. You can just go out in the hall if somebody taps your door. They put your food outside, drop your menus inside and that's about it," the 70-year-old said.

Dr Harries said she has a "great deal of trust" in the US public health system and said the Foreign Office was "extremely active" in looking after UK citizens abroad.

Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has now passed 100,000, with 3,400 deaths.

The government has updated its advice for travellers from Italy - the country in Europe that has been worst-affected by the virus with more than 4,600 cases.

It now says people who develop symptoms after returning from any part of Italy - not just the north of the country - should self-isolate, while those returning from quarantined areas should self-isolate even without symptoms.

The Foreign Office is also warning travellers to Moscow in Russia that they may be told to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival from the UK, as part of measures to control the virus.

It says in a small number of cases, foreign visitors have been placed in enforced quarantine if they have not complied.

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