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Coronavirus cases fell sharply across the UK as the season changed from spring to summer. With the daily death toll also falling, the grim mood that captured much of the country at the height of the crisis eased.
But deaths from the virus are on the rise again. According to the Office for National Statistics, they quadrupled over the last month, with 321 deaths registered in England and Wales for the week ending 2 October with Covid-19 on the death certificate.
On Tuesday, a further 143 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday. It is the highest daily death figure since June.
Samantha Chung, a 27-year-old who lives in Eastbourne, was shocked when she saw that a mental health nurse, Wilbald Tesha, who she credits with saving her life, had died from the virus in early September.
It shattered the illusion that the pandemic had abated. “I do feel like people who were still dying are the forgotten ones,” she said. “I’m still really sad that he’s passed away and how he passed away. It just feels so cruel because he loved life.”
Tesha was one of 3,173 people to die from coronavirus in the UK over summer – between 15 June, when non-essential shops reopened, and 8 September. Here, behind the statistics that so often dehumanise the impact of Covid-19, are the stories of five people who lost their lives during that period.
Tesha had worked for nearly 30 years in the NHS. Known locally as Tesh, the father of one was described as a “caring and compassionate nurse” who would be dearly missed and “a good friend to many”.
He grew up in a small village in Tanzania, at the foot of Kilimanjaro, before moving to the UK.
Chung first met Tesha as his patient when she was 18. “He was compassionate, understanding, and non-judgmental. He always said hello with a big smile. He was full of positivity and hope for all of us patients,” she said.
“He was the only one that could get through to me in my darkest moments and I really do owe him my life. He saved my life many times and I know that he saved many of my friends’ lives as well.”
The news of his death in the first week of September came as a shock to the local community and his colleagues. Sam Allen, the chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS foundation trust, said: “I do not underestimate the impact of his loss across the teams in East Sussex, particularly all who worked with him in Eastbourne and on the many patients Tesha will have come to know over his many years in the service.”
A “bubbly” cafe worker who lived in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Maftei died on 13 August aged 32.
Maftei, who moved to the UK from Tecuci in Romania and lived with her husband, Ovidiu, had worked at Nobel Cafe in Ballymena for 12 years. Colleagues described their devastation after her death, saying their hearts went out to her loving husband, parents, grandparents and family circle. A statement confirmed that she contracted the virus in the community rather than at the cafe.
At the time, her death was the first to be confirmed by the Department of Health in more than four days. A fundraiser that was launched by her husband’s employer to return his wife’s body to Romania exceeded its target within a few weeks.
Described as a loving man and the “heartbeat” of his family and local community, and known for his razor-sharp sense of humour, 52-year-old Sarfraz Quayyum died in Warrington hospital on 29 June after being put in an induced coma.
The Quayyum family were one of the first families to move to from the Indian subcontinent to Warrington. Over the past few decades, Sarfraz, from Great Sankey, had an instrumental role in building a strong sense of community, establishing and running one of the first halal grocers in the area and taking a lead on building a bigger mosque.
“He was very well known and also very much loved. It’s a big shock for the community, said his brother, Afthkar Quayyum. He added that it “tore at the heartstring” that the family had not been able to see Sarfraz when he was in hospital. The family did however get to speak with him on Facetime, with Afthkar describing the care he received from Warrington hospital as exceptional.
“It still hurts and is fresh in our minds. We remember every other hour of the day, thinking he would have done this, or he would have said this,” Afthkar said.
Afthkar’s wife and daughter have both written poems about Sarfraz, which noted that he had: “A heart of gold, a beautiful soul.”
Ann Watson died on 22 July after contracting coronavirus as she was recovering from a broken arm and sepsis. The “feisty” and “independent” 79-year-old grandmother spent 10 weeks in hospital after a fall.
Watson, who was born and raised in Northumberland, was the daughter of a shopkeeper and had an older brother who served in the RAF during the second world war. She worked in retail before she met her husband, a miner, when she was 20. After they married, they moved to the small village Stakeford and she lived in the same house for 50 years. Watson had been a widow for the past 20 years.
Her daughter, Lynne Watson, 49, who is a parish councillor, said her mother was heavily involved in supporting miners during strikes in the 1970s.
“She wrote to the prime minister [Edward Heath] in the 70s when the strike was on and she was over the moon she got a reply. She kept it forever.”
Lynne said she was devastated that she had not been able to see her mother in her final moments. “Everyone knew her and so many people have come up to me and said, ‘We miss your mam just being in this village.’”
Moshe Leib Weiser
A collector and seller of rare Jewish books, Moshe Leib Weiser died on 17 August aged 77.
The Stamford Hill resident was described as an “extraordinary scholar” and knowledgeable lover of books who made it his business to not just sell books, but to read every book that came into his hands.
His friend, Rabbi Pini Dunner of Beverly Hills synagogue in California, said: “Most antiquarian booksellers see books as commodities. In other words, it’s about supply and demand: ‘I’m going to get the book, and I’m going to sell it. And if I can’t sell it, I’m not going to get the book.’ But he never saw books as a commodity. For him, books were repositories of knowledge and he would obtain the rarest books that you can imagine.”
Dunner met Weiser in the early 2000s and had often turned to him when he had questions on rabbinic history and Jewish bibliography. He described Weiser’s death as a huge loss to the Jewish community in London and across the world.
On a personal level, Dunner said he had been devastated by Weiser’s passing. “It’s absolutely dreadful. He is not the first person who’s died from Covid over the past few months who has been a dear friend or relative. Each of them has been very painful. It’s hard to believe that they’ve gone.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘He was full of hope’: stories behind five of the 3,173 UK Covid deaths this summer | World news