Coronavirus: Terminally-ill dad fears impact of shielding on sons

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A man sitting at a tableImage source, Getty Images/byryo

A father-of-four with incurable cancer has appealed to the Department of Health to allow him to self-isolate in his caravan so his children can "get on with their lives".

The man was among 80,000 people in Northern Ireland with a range of health conditions who received letters from the department advising them to remain indoors for 12 weeks.

He has been shielding since 12 March.

But he said he feared the impact of his situation on his children.

Chris (not his real name) said his sons, two of whom are in their 20s, were terrified of leaving the house, even for a walk, in case they pick up the virus and and infect him.

"I was quite shocked to hear they did not want to go out," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"I have concern for them, for their mental health, for their well-being."

'Let kids get on with their lives'

Chris said he believed the solution may be for him to stay alone in the family's caravan in north Down.

That is the plan produced by the NI executive to ease restrictions over five stages.

"I could go down there and shield - it's is about letting my kids get on with their lives," he said.

"When one person is shielding it is like a pebble in a pond, it affects everyone in the family. It's everyone's concern."

Chris said he felt there was a "very broad brush approach" to the different phases of easing lockdown.

He said there was some suggestion caravan parks may not open until the final phase of easement.

"We are a relatively small population in a relatively small country, what I am asking is not a criticism or berating anyone," he said.

"Time is important to me. Time is my currency and that means a lot to me. I am asking to cash in on that currency.

"Is there any room for manoeuvre here?"

'Time is not yet right'

A statement released by the Department of Health on behalf of Health Minister Robin Swann said essential travel during the coronavirus disease pandemic does not include visits to second homes campsites, caravan parks or similar.

He said people must therefore stay in their own homes.

"The relaxations announced this week were made possible by the vast majority of the public following the public health advice.

"While I know this is difficult, I urge everyone to stick with it and follow the guidelines.

"When the time is right the executive will make decisions that will allow the further relaxation of the rule but we are not there yet."

Prof Ian Young NI's chief scientific advisor said Chris's story reflected "the challenges and sacrifices" faced by him and many others to "beat this virus".

" I hope as we move forward as the number of cases of the virus continue to decline progressively the advice around shielding will be looked at again and hopefully may move forward a bit to allow life to be a little easier," he said.