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Opinion: How one Stratford woman's family suffered the Covid rules while those in power broke them

By Kate Sheehan

I READ with sadness the article in the Herald (9th December) about Victoria Alcock managing personal grief at a time of lockdowns while government parties took place. It really resonated with me, and tears began to flow again.

Kate Sheehan. Photo: Mark Williamson P23/12/21/9913. (53956689)
Kate Sheehan. Photo: Mark Williamson P23/12/21/9913. (53956689)

In May 2020, my mother Ann, 83, was in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, near where she lived, when we were told she would not be able to go home. Instead she was found a place at Arbour Court Care home in Marple. For seven months I did a six-hour round trip to visit every week, when allowed, talking to her through a window for my allotted ten minutes. I would have gone more but the care home had to meet the needs of all the residents.

I did all this because these were the rules and regulations, I did this to save the NHS, I did this to protect others. All while the PM, his cabinet and his civil servants partied in the garden of No. 10, with their cheese and wine.

My mother, stricken by pneumonia, died in late November. Wearing full PPE, I was allowed to see her as she faded, and I played her messages from her nine grandchildren and told her how much we all loved her. I was not there when she died because we had had our allocated time.

The funeral was held with limited numbers in mid-December: no hugging, no kissing, no party to celebrate this amazing mother’s life.

My brother Stephen and I walked my mum down the path to her church of 55 years – St Thomas’ Church in Mellor, in the Peak District. As the rules dictated, we remained socially distanced just as we were told to do. Those gathered all sat in separate pews. I could not comfort my son Mike, 22, or daughter Connie, 26, who were distraught at mum’s passing… yet the Christmas parties within the government and Conservative headquarters were in full swing, complete with quizzes, tinsel, silly hats and alcohol.

We were hoping to meet up as a family last Christmas. Boris Johnson kept saying he would ‘save’ Christmas. However, London went into Tier 3, and we could not travel to see Stephen, sister-in-law Jennifer, or my niece and nephew – Romiley, 16, and Luke, 18. We Zoomed and chatted, but it was not the same.

Kate Sheehan with photos of her mother and brother. Photo: Mark Williamson P23/12/21/9902. (53956685)
Kate Sheehan with photos of her mother and brother. Photo: Mark Williamson P23/12/21/9902. (53956685)

Over the phone, I discussed with Stephen the practical issues of clearing mum’s home and what we would do once we could put together a fitting celebration of her life. As we did our grieving remotely, virtually and by telephone, those in power who set the rules had flouted them on what appears to be a weekly basis.

When my brother died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 57, the sad reality was the last time I saw him physically was at our mother’s funeral. The pain was and continues to be indescribable.

Part of me wishes I had flouted the rules and hugged and kissed him, told him how much I loved him, but I didn’t because I was obeying the rules and it was the right thing to do.

Hearing all the evidence over the last few weeks of partying going on within government turns my pain to anger and fury. Those in power are supposed to lead by example and not have one rule for them and one for us. The contempt of those in power show us is abounding.

What can I do? I wrote to Nadhim Zahawi, our MP – a calm email expressing my frustration. The reply I received seemed at least a little apologetic, then on reading the article in the Herald I realised that Victoria, another grieving sister, received the same response. Our letters were just copied and pasted and full of party rhetoric, not personal at all and certainly not an explanation of why it is acceptable for those in power to blatantly disregard the rules. Again my fury rises: how can they get away with all this abuse of power?

What I find so frustrating is that those in power, including Boris Johnson, do not resign; yet he broke the law, he had parties, he drank wine while my and other people’s loved ones died without their family by their side. Where is the moral compass of these individuals? Where is their compassion? Where is their leadership?

I want to thank all those who have abided by the rules, regardless of the personal sacrifice; I want to thank all those in the NHS and other key workers for carrying on, these are the true heroes of the pandemic, and through my rage I know that most of us are decent human beings who genuinely care for each other.

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