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Edwin Poots' anguish at not being able to visit elderly father in hospital

I haven’t been able to speak to him directly since he went into the Ulster’

Edwin Poots

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has spoken of his family's pain at being unable to visit his elderly father in hospital due to coronavirus restrictions.

The DUP MLA for Lagan Valley also praised staff at the Ulster Hospital who are caring for his 90-year-old father Charlie after he fell at his home outside Lisburn last Thursday.

Like thousands of other families, Mr Poots (54) is not allowed to visit his father's hospital bedside as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The father-of-four followed Charlie into politics, and both have served in councils and at Stormont.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Sunday, Mr Poots, a former Health Minister, said his father's condition was improving and he greatly appreciated people's prayers for his recovery.

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Edwin Poots' father Charlie, who is in the Ulster Hospital

Edwin Poots' father Charlie, who is in the Ulster Hospital

Edwin Poots' father Charlie, who is in the Ulster Hospital

"He has had some trouble with his breathing and he was receiving oxygen but that has been reduced, which is very positive.

"He is slowly improving and we hope that continues to be the case.

"I haven't been able to speak to him directly since he went into hospital as he is hard of hearing but we are keeping in touch with his progress by speaking regularly to staff on his ward.

"It is very difficult not being able to support him in hospital as it is all very confusing for a 90-year-old after a trauma.

"The Ulster Hospital have been very good in terms of keeping us informed and carrying out all the appropriate tests on him.

"The level of care, attention and information has been excellent and we know that he is in good hands.

"There are an awful lot of people who are much worse off and many younger people who are in intensive care units suffering from Covid-19."

If everybody applies the rules to themselves then we will get back to normality sooner

On Good Friday Mr Poots joined with his fellow Stormont ministers in a video message stressing the importance of staying at home this Easter weekend to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Police also ramped up patrols across the region, targeting beaches, parks and other visitor spots amid fears a combination of good weather and Easter traditions would tempt people to ignore social distancing guidelines.

Mr Poots said he believes the vast majority of people are abiding by the lockdown in a bid to save lives as he reinforced the stay at home message.

"We hear of people behaving stupidly by having house parties and things, which is entirely ridiculous behaviour," he said.

"The longer people do that, the longer people will have to lock down.

"If everybody applies the rules to themselves then we will get back to normality sooner.

"I appreciate the good weather makes it harder for people to stay indoors and not everyone is blessed with garden space so I know that it a real challenge.

"This is a truly awful time for so many people and it's a very different Easter this year.

"As a family this was always a time we looked forward to coming together and heading off to the coast.

"While it's a bit of a downer not being able to do that, this is just one year and we will get over this and move on.

"If we survive to the other side of this situation, a few weeks of being in our own homes will not be the end of the world.

"I hope that when all of this is over that the attitude of people in general will have changed a bit and that we'll all have a bit more time for each other and look out for each other more."

Belfast Telegraph