The sister of a Newtownards man who was the third person from Northern Ireland to die from Covid-19 has warned that the virus will kill many others unless people “act properly”.
Billy Allan (67) passed away in the early hours of Monday morning in a hospital in the greater Belfast area having been admitted with a suspected chest infection last Friday.
Mr Allan had suffered from underlying heart and lung problems.
His heartbroken sister Joan Fulton (60) told UTV News of her family’s added pain at not being able to say a proper goodbye to him in hospital or be at his graveside when he is laid to rest tomorrow.
Fighting back tears, she said: “That number had a face and it’s the face of my brother. My brother Billy is person number three who lost his life yesterday morning at 3 o’clock to this virus.
“Why am I sharing this? Because this is the hardest journey I’ve ever been on.
“I listen to the media talk about numbers. I listened to the Health Minister sending his condolences. That is really fine but it's not enough.
“This virus is ripping families apart. When my brother left his house on Friday night we thought he had a chest infection and he went into hospital. Our family didn’t know that we wouldn’t be seeing Billy again.”
Paying tribute to the medics who cared for her brother in his final days, Joan said: “The doctors and nurses who looked after Billy are my heroes forever because they were there for him.
“Billy had his own mobile phone and while he was still able to talk, the family was able to communicate.
“He was told on Saturday that he wasn’t going to make it.
“We couldn’t be with Billy. We couldn’t say goodbye. We couldn’t be there.”
Joan said the funeral restrictions imposed during the coronavirus crisis mean her family won’t be able to lay Billy to rest in the normal way tomorrow.
“We can’t even be together to bury Billy. Billy came back into Newtownards today with strangers and we aren’t able to be with him. "He will lie in the back room (of the undertakers) until tomorrow (Wednesday) for burial. We can’t stand at his grave to bring closure to this.”
Joan also spoke directly to those not heeding the newly imposed coronavirus lockdown rules.
“Stop thinking about you but think about others. This disease will kill many if we don’t act properly. Stay at home. That’s the simple message.”