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Daughter of Northern Ireland coronavirus victim Ruth Burke angry at 'selfish' people who ignore rules

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Ruth Burke (82) with her daughter Brenda Doherty

Ruth Burke (82) with her daughter Brenda Doherty

Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

PA

Antrim Area Hospital

Antrim Area Hospital

Ruth Burke (82) with her daughter Brenda Doherty

The daughter of an 82-year-old woman who died from coronavirus has made a heartbreaking plea for people to "wise up" and "do as they are told" to reduce the number of deaths.

Ruth Burke passed away at Antrim Area Hospital on Monday night. She was the fourth person to die from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

Grieving and frustrated, Brenda Doherty said she was devastated that she could not kiss her mother goodbye or see her in her coffin.

She has pleaded with people to follow government advice over social distancing, saying those who did not comply were "selfish".

Yesterday the UK death toll reached 422­ ­- a rise of 87 in 24 hours. There are now more than 8,000 confirmed cases.

Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann has warned the death toll here could reach 15,000 unless people comply with social distancing guidelines.

On Monday night Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced strict new rules to stop the spread of the virus.

Ms Burke was named as Northern Ireland's fourth Covid-19 victim at her family's request.

They said she was simply unable to fight the virus.

"She was the queen of our family," said Brenda, "and I want her to be remembered as more than a Covid-19 statistic."

Brenda paid tribute in a heartbreaking video shared on Facebook and also in an interview with Radio Ulster's Talkback.

Mrs Burke had five children ­- Brenda, Jennifer, Paul, Colin and Richard, who died at 16 from a brain tumour.

Brenda told the BBC: "I know mum has had her illnesses over the years but this was the final straw. She didn't have the strength.

"I don't want my mum being a statistic, she was a loving mother, a strong person, she survived the death of a child which I simply can't imagine.

"She lived for all of us, she lived for her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She put smiles on all our faces, so much more than Covid-19 death number four."

Recalling how her mother's health deteriorated, Brenda added: "She would have been in hospital two weeks on Wednesday with a cough and a cold from Christmas. She had a high infection level and they were tracing the source of that.

"On Friday we had actually hoped that mum was going to get home but there were problems getting a care package in place in time for that to happen.

"On Saturday I received a phone call to say that mum had developed a high temperature and that she was Covid-19 positive."

Brenda said the last time she had been able to be with her mum was last Thursday night.

"The hospital was down to one visitor per person by then, but unfortunately not everyone was respectful of the rules. I was able to take nightdresses up to mummy and I went in to see her. She was a wee bit upset so they let me have a couple of minutes with her, just to settle her.

"She wanted to know where I was going. I told her I had to go home, I couldn't stay. I told her there was a virus going about, but that me and her, next Monday night, would be sitting together knitting. We'd be grand.

"I told her 'we all love you mummy, we'll see you soon'.

"On Thursday night, as far as we were concerned, she was recovering and doing well, still a bit confused but that's the sort of thing that would have happened with mum now and again.

"There were certainly no other symptoms. We don't know exactly when she contracted this. I don't believe it was what she was in with."

Ms Doherty had nothing but praise for the hospital staff who looked after her mother in her final hours.

"I cannot fault the hospital, not one bit," she added. "I cannot praise the staff enough for what they are doing. The NHS staff have been absolutely fantastic. They've been very respectful to mum and our family.

"When a doctor rang last night to tell me he didn't think mum would see the other side of this I asked him would he tell her we all loved her because we couldn't go and see her and he said he would.

"The nurse who was with her last night had got information from the family and she was able to talk to mum about all of us and used our names. She was with her and she was the one who rang this morning to tell me mum had passed.

"She said that on Sunday her and mum had been singing together.

"It's not just about the medical care, it's about the emotional care they have provided to my mum these last few weeks and I can't thank them enough."

But Brenda's frustration that some in society are still failing to grasp the full implications of their actions is strong.

Photographs emerged in recent days of Belfast's streets packed with shoppers and beaches busy with families. Shops have also seen their shelves stripped by panic-buyers.

Brenda added: "One of the frustrating things for me is when I see the posts on Facebook of people going in to supermarkets and getting everything off the shelves they possibly can.

"I just don't understand how they can't see how they're putting themselves, their loved ones and other people in danger."

Because coronavirus is so contagious, those who die with it must be placed in closed coffins.

Brenda said not being able to say goodbye to her mother in person added to their grief.

She said: "We know mum was 82. We were really lucky to have her with us for as long as we did.

"My sister and my brothers pulled together these past nine years since we lost our daddy, to look after mum and keep her safe, so to lose mum to Covid-19, not be able to see her in her coffin, not to be able to put her in her favourite red outfit is heartbreaking.

"I think about the last kiss that I gave my mum, it's just heartbreaking." She added: "None of us will see mummy now. There will be no celebration of her life for us.

"I know that the nurse was with her last night and I am so appreciative of that and I cannot thank her enough for what she has done, but not to be able to kiss my mum and leave a lipstick mark on her face is heartbreaking.

"It is what it is and we have to deal with it as a family."

In a direct plea to people she added: "This will not go on forever.

"This will pass, but the sooner people start heeding what they're being told to do the sooner we can all get back to normality.

"My normality is not going to be the same.

"We cannot appeal to people enough just to 'do as you're bid', as my mum would have said.

"It's for your own safety and the safety of those that you love."

Belfast Telegraph