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Family's loss shows Covid threat is real

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Owen Ward

Owen Ward

Owen Ward

For most people in Northern Ireland the death toll from Covid-19, although growing fast, is still only a list of ever changing numbers. But today let us walk in the shoes of the Ward family in Strabane for whom the experience of the pandemic is so much more personal and so much more tragic.

For today the children of Owen and Bredge Ward will lay their father and mother to rest, the pair having succumbed to the virus within 12 hours of each other on Monday. The couple were only 69 and had been married for nearly 50 years. In life they were seldom parted and in death they remained united.

Imagine how their six children must have felt on Monday, receiving a phone call that their mother had died at 6.30am and then another call at 6.30pm that their father had passed away also. In his case his son Martin, who has worked in intensive care during the pandemic and who has experience of the PPE precautions necessary was able to be present as his father died.

This case is not unique. Recently we learned that three members of one family had died from the virus. But each case should bring home to us just how dangerous Covid-19 is, especially to those with underlying health problems or who have reached an advanced age.

There are too many people who argue that Covid-19 is like a bad dose of the flu. It may be for those who are young and fit but it is more likely to be a killer for the aged or ill. It is a disease which must be taken seriously and scientific advice on curbing the spread of the virus should not be ignored.

No administration has found a way to balance lives and livelihood, so we can understand the dilemmas our political leaders at Stormont face in trying to re-open the economy to an extent without endangering more lives. But that does not give them the right to put political ideology ahead of proven scientific facts.

As Martin Ward says in his brave interview in this newspaper today it would make sense to have an all-Ireland approach to curbing the spread of Covid-19. The virus does not respect borders or political beliefs. It is indiscriminate in who it attacks and there are many families in Northern Ireland who, like the Wards, can attest to its virulence.

Much has been made of ensuring that everyone has as normal a Christmas as possible but that must be tempered with caution.

If extended families want to be together on the big day that poses an obvious threat to well-being. The message to them is be careful, wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands often.

Belfast Telegraph


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