Covid-19: 'I've been abused because my name is Corona'

By Daniel Wittenberg
BBC News

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image captionCorona Newton used to only have to put up with jokes about beer

Corona Newton has endured jokes about her unusual name for as long as she can remember.

Beer-related nicknames have followed the 49-year-old civil servant since before she was legally able to sup her first pint.

"People used to call me Guinness and Budweiser," she said. "That I could always laugh off. But this is more frustrating, especially when it gets aggressive."

Corona lives in Oldham, which currently has the highest number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in England.

Residents of the Greater Manchester town have endured some of the toughest enhanced lockdown measures for weeks.

Corona said no-one takes her seriously when they discover her Christian name, while she cannot book a table or open an account without staff giving her peculiar looks.

"People have said to me 'as if I'm going to listen to somebody named after a virus'," she said.

Mum-of-five Corona has even been plagued by "really nasty" cold callers, with people just saying things like: "Is that the virus?"

While driving her daughter to the dentist last week, she picked up a highly abusive phone call from a man who swore at her.

She said: "He screamed down the phone at me 'what does it feel like to [do] the world over?'"

Her name also leads to awkward situations, like at a recent parents' evening when a teacher thought her daughter was being rude by saying Corona.

According to the Office for National Statistics, fewer than three girls were named Corona in 2019 and it has not been recorded in the top 100 girls names at any time from 1904-2019.

So how did Corona come by her unusual moniker?

The name comes from the Latin word for crown and also means the aura around stars or the moon. It is quite a common Spanish surname but less so as a forename.

Growing up in Drogheda, a town on the east coast of Ireland, Corona said she stood out for not sounding Catholic despite being named after the missionary midwife who delivered her.

"My parents couldn't decide between Sarah and Catherine, so they ended up choosing Corona," she said.

Before news bulletins became dominated by the pandemic, Corona said it was much easier to have a sense of humour about her name.

"I had my hen do in Blackpool not long before lockdown started in March," she said.

"We played 'guess my name' with strangers and no-one managed it, so they all had to buy me shots."

Despite Covid-19 scuppering her wedding plans for now, as well as any dreams of a massive 50th birthday party, Corona said 2020 would certainly be a year to remember.

"In these tough times, if I've brightened someone's day by having a funny name, so be it," she said. "At least no-one will ever forget me."

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