As Dominic Cummings mounted a defiant last-ditch attempt to save his job, anger has continued to build among members of the public. From those mourning loved ones to parents of newborns who had found themselves unable to draw on family support, many shared stories of personal sacrifices made in order to keep within lockdown rules.
All had one thing in common: intense anger at the prime minister’s chief adviser and at Boris Johnson himself.
John and Fiona Hutchinson: ‘We had to stay put’
Eight weeks of being unable to see their grandchildren in Edinburgh was bad enough for John and Fiona Hutchinson, but then their son, his partner and children fell ill and they could not visit to offer care.
Thankfully, the family have since recovered. Like so many, they were not tested, but their symptoms were consistent with those of Covid-19.
“We would have normally gone straight across from Glasgow to be there for them, but we had to stay put,” said John, who has asthma and had already been taking steps to protect himself because of the increased risk coronavirus poses to people with the condition. The family’s determination to abide by the lockdown rules, however, meant Fiona also did not make the trip, despite desperately wanting to help out.
“We felt very, very sad but we recognised, as we thought anyone would, that it was what we had to do. Then we read about Cummings apparently disregarding the rules that were supposed to be in place for all of us,” said John.
Chris Garside: ‘Beyond an insult’
His mother died of brain cancer a few weeks ago, but for Chris Garside she “was and always will be an inspiration” for the way in which she had confronted mortality with humour and “tons of love”.
He recalls: “When the lockdown started we knew we would not be able to see Mum unless she was in her final hours. We knew we would lose most of those precious last days. Incredibly painful as that was my family would never put the hospice staff or patients at unnecessary risk.”
Now his anger is evident as he speaks of “the drivel” which he says is coming out of Downing Street.
“Our family is grieving after having to say goodbye in the most unsatisfactory of circumstances. It is beyond an insult to families like mine that supposedly serious politicians should seek to justify this for even a second. It is incredibly obvious what Cummings should be doing if he has an ounce of decency.”
Ben Davies: ‘We are bringing up our baby without family support’
Ben Davies’s partner gave birth to a healthy baby daughter on 29 March, but physical distancing has meant relatives, including grandparents, have been unable to visit and meet her.
On top of that came the stresses and strains of parenting a newborn without family and friends being able to help in person. He said it felt akin to being robbed of the experience they had hoped for, but they completely understood the rules and the gravity of the mounting public health crisis.
“We are bringing up our baby without the support family would usually provide and it’s at a time when health services have been curtailed so, for example, support and reassurance for new families is not what it would have been as clinics are not physically open,” he said.
“I am also a key worker and have to leave my partner on her own most days unable to have visitors. However hard midwives try to help remotely, the current situation has added to the anxiety we have experienced and the situation has impacted this special time.”
He is infuriated by the revelations about Cummings, and asks: “How can a prime minister give a briefing where he so blatantly lies, avoids questions and blusters to protect his adviser?”
Jenny McCloskey: ‘Only four people went to the funeral’
Although her mother was 95, Jenny McCloskey had not been expecting to have to say goodbye when she went into hospital on 3 March, two days before her death.
McCloskey travelled from her home in Norwich to Yorkshire to organise the funeral, which many were going to attend, then returned to Norwich expecting to travel back for the ceremony on 25 March. Then lockdown began on 23 March, meaning she was unable to go.
“Only four people went to the funeral, just the people who lived in my sister’s house,” she said. “No funeral tea was held, instead my sister and her daughter had sandwiches in their house. Nothing can ever compensate me for not being at my mother’s funeral and that it had to be such a miserly affair compared to the celebration which we had planned.”
The sacrifices did not end there. “We have a new grandson, our first, born on 20 May 2020, we have only seen photographs, we cannot cuddle him, we cannot go round to my son’s house and help, we can only sit here and wonder when it will be safe for us to go.”
Debbie Golanzi: ‘My brother felt so desperate’
Starting a new job in the week before lockdown after struggling to find work after his graduation from university, Debbie Golanzi’s brother had been full of hope for the future.
He was let go on 24 March, however, and was not able to access the government’s furlough scheme. At the end of the month, he took his own life.
“We had stayed in touch daily and he had been asking us to come and visit but we knew we couldn’t under the government guidance,” Golanzi said. “None of us realised how difficult he was finding isolation in a new place with no work, no friends and higher rents that he had no way to pay.”
Regulations also meant she was unable to attend her brother’s funeral, watching it instead on a remote link.
“It was eight or 10 minutes long but it almost felt like we were watching something on CCTV. It even cut off before the last song was finished because they had to move on to another.
“I’m so angry that people like my brother felt so desperate that they ended their lives, when according to Boris Johnson’s speech they could have broken lockdown rules by following their instincts.
“How many good people have lost their lives by following the rules, and how many more will die as a result of Dominic Cummings effectively ending the lockdown with his behaviour? It feels as if our sacrifice was for nothing and it has made the grieving process even harder.”
• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.