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Downing Street party: North-east health worker ‘sickened’ after Covid rules prevented her seeing seriously ill husband in hospital

Corri Black with husband Joe Brown
Corri Black with husband Joe Brown

As Downing Street staff allegedly partied away last December, Corri Black was waving goodbye to her husband outside Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, fearing it was the last time she’d see him alive.

The Aberdeenshire health worker wasn’t allowed to walk into the building with her partner Joe, who was living the last few weeks of his life with cancer, due to coronavirus restrictions.

As a public health consultant with NHS Grampian, she fully understands why these rules were in place – to help patients, and her colleagues, stay safe.

However, it’s now emerging that, only days before, UK Government staff had allegedly gathered at a festive bash in Downing Street.

‘I brought him home to die. They partied.’

And on the day Corri took her beloved husband to hospital, No 10 staff were laughing and joking at a mock press conference about a Christmas party being held.

The Downing Street bash allegedly took place on December 18, two days after the government introduced a ban on people from mixing with other households indoors.

Corri says she feels “insulted” by reports of government staff flouting the rules while she dropped her husband off at the emergency department door.

“I could not visit him in what would become his last hospital admission while they partied,” she said.

“I brought him home to die. They partied.

“Yes, I feel sickened by the behaviour of our so-called UK leaders.”

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
Corri would sit outside the hospital so she could feel closer to her husband because she could not visit him.

Corri, who has a daughter, described how difficult it was for families watching their loved ones being admitted to hospital alone.

She had taken Joe to hospital after he developed a fever late at night.

“I dropped him off at the door and had to sit in the car and watch him shuffle away alone, with his overnight bag because of the rules,” she said.

“You’re leaving someone at the front door watching them while they’re sick and you’re sitting in the car.

“You can’t go any further with them and you’re not sure whether they will come out again alive.”

‘I understood why there were restrictions’

Corri is not only angry hearing of a party taking place in Downing Street but also at the response this week from the government.

Boris Johnson has issued an apology, but says he’s been “repeatedly assured” there was no gathering, and no rules were broken.

“I’m a public health doctor and I absolutely understand the reason for restrictions,” Corri said.

“It’s a desperately hard thing to ask people to do, and as a public health doctor we don’t ask for these things lightly.

“So to see it then treated as if these restrictions are some kind of joke that only apply to other people is really painful.

“The response to it, and the utter disrespect for people, is just galling. It makes you feel so angry.”

I would sit outside in the hospital car park for hours just to be closer to Joe

Joe Black, 51, was diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable bone marrow cancer, 12 years before he died.

The engineer, who owned north-east wind turbine firm Proven Energy, underwent several treatments over the years, including two bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy.

Joe Black on his boat
Joe enjoyed fishing and had a boat that he sailed at Portsoy.

He was admitted to hospital with a fever on December 22 and died a few weeks later.

Corri said: “He had an infection that they were unable to treat or find the source of.

“He spent Christmas in hospital with only me able to visit on Christmas Day.”

The pair weren’t reunited until Hogmanay, when Joe’s condition had deteriorated.

He had to have a conversation with the medical team while alone in hospital about his resuscitation wishes if he became critically unwell.

Corri recalls how a kind doctor in the haematology team had called her at home to talk her through the same conversation, as they weren’t allowed to in person.

“I would sit in my car in the hospital car park in the evenings after I had dropped off bags of clean clothes at the hospital door,” Corri said.

“Sometimes I would sit there for hours because it felt closer to him. We weren’t allowed in to visit.

“We were lucky and could speak on the phone or WhatsApp. I know so many did not even have that.”

Joe was eventually able to go home so that he could spend the time he had left with his closest family and friends who were unable to visit him in hospital.

He died at the end of January.

The public are right to be angry

Boris Johnson says that he’s “satisfied” that no Covid rules were broken.

But Corri, who lives near Insch, believes the government has not been open and transparent about what happened on the night of the alleged party.

The prime minister announced on Wednesday that an internal investigation led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would look into the reports of a staff gathering.

The probe has now been widened to include another festive celebration and a reported staff leaving do.

Corri says the public are allowed to feel angry over the incident because they will have lost trust in government officials.

She said: “It’s justified because of the disrespect of the rules that we were all asked to live under, the restrictions that we were asked to comply with.

“And I think it’s justified because of the impact that it has on the ability of people to trust and to listen.

Corri Black with her husband Joe Brown.
Corri Black with her husband Joe Brown.

“It harms everyone now because it makes it harder for everybody to listen to the really important messages that they are delivering on behalf of people who are genuinely trying to do their best for everybody’s health.

“As a member of the public, it really worries me now that our ability to respond to the pandemic is left in tatters.”

She has urged the public still to take heed of all the health advice and to continue following coronavirus restrictions – pointing to NHS Grampian for advice on tests, vaccines and other support.

She added: “This is going to be really challenging and we are going to need people to follow the rules, get their booster, test regularly and look after themselves and their families the best they can through this period.”

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