Coronavirus: 'I've moved out to protect my family from the virus'

By Debbie Jackson
BBC Scotland

Image caption,
Ambulance technician Jamie Kennedy has moved out of his home to protect his family from coronavirus

Week four of social distancing is starting to take its toll.

But while most of us are giving up trips out of the house, many health workers across the country are making an even bigger sacrifice.

Those who are on the front line, experiencing face-to-face contact with patients who have the virus, are putting themselves at risk every day.

Some of them have made the difficult decision to stay away from their families to avoid passing on that risk.

Ambulance technician Jamie Kennedy from Glasgow is one of them.

Image source, Jamie Kennedy
Image caption,
Ambulance technician Jamie Kennedy comes into contact with patients with coronavirus symptoms every day

Jamie, 38, moved out of his family home 11 days ago and into a hotel so that he can carry on doing his job without worrying about bringing the virus home to his wife and two children.

He can also continue to do vital work if any of his family have to self-isolate.

He told the BBC: "I am staying in a hotel which offered free rooms to NHS staff at the start of lockdown. The hotel is almost full of NHS staff.

"It was a difficult decision but when I saw the situation getting worse and worse I had the discussion with my wife Ashley.

"It was a purely personal decision, but I would never forgive myself if anything happened and if the kids got ill. I am out in the community all day and if I went in and caused them to get sick, I would never forgive myself."

Tuesday's figures saw the number of patients testing positive for Covid-19 in Scotland rise to 6,358. A total of 615 people have died, including two health and care workers.

'Symptoms present in the majority'

Jamie's shifts for the Scottish Ambulance Service are completely consumed by coronavirus right now.

"In the majority of calls one or more symptoms are present and we have to treat it as a potential case," he said. " It could be up to nine patients in a shift.

"Thankfully the morale is high and we are well looked after. My manager calls to check we are doing okay."

Image source, Ashley Kennedy
Image caption,
Jamie's children James and Eva are missing their dad but mum Ashley believes they are doing the right thing

Contact with his wife and children is limited to video calls and one socially distant trip a week to drop off groceries.

Having to see them from a distance is heartbreaking.

He said: "I do a big shop for them and take it over to the back garden and talk to them from the back of the garden.

"It's hard. I was there the other day and my daughter, who is eight, wanted a hug and she was crying. That was difficult.

"There is no end in sight right now but I'll stay away from my wife and kids as long as I need to, to keep them safe."

Jamie's wife Ashley says like many families of front-line workers, they are worried.

'The right thing'

She said: "The children have taken it pretty bad but understand how important their daddy's job is.

"It's been hard for me to see the children so upset and Jamie upset leaving, but I've had to stay strong for him to be able to put his all into his job and strong for the kids to feel secure and safe."

"It's hard not seeing him and having a wee cuddle but we know it's the right and safest thing to do.

"Jamie is the most selfless man I've ever known.

"We as a family who is affected by this virus cannot stress enough that everyone keeps to the stay at home guidelines. The more everyone stays home the sooner the virus will die off and the sooner we can get Jamie home."

'We just wanted to do our bit to help'

Scottish hotel group Manorview is one of many hotel companies across the country keeping their doors open to NHS staff at this uncertain time.

The company made the decision to stop trading on 18 March. Five days later its hotels opened up again to front-line health staff, for no cost. They've had more than 2,000 room bookings, with three venues fully booked until the start of May.

Image source, Manor View Hotels
Image caption,
The Busby Hotel is one of the locations welcoming NHS staff

Managing director David Tracey said the group was humbled to hear some of the stories of NHS workers who are trying to keep working to look after patients, while also trying to protect their own families at home.

He said: "More than ever, we need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of our NHS team. They are on the front line, helping us all, and saving lives. We are very thankful for the work they do. We are there for them and we're proud to be of service, and in a position to help.

"The attitude of our team has made this negative situation more positive."