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Heartbroken family of coronavirus victim urge public to stay at home

Chris Barrett (75) was an avid walker in the New Forest
Chris Barrett (75) was an avid walker in the New Forest

THE heartbroken family of a New Forest man who died from coronavirus have urged people to stick to the rules imposed by the Prime Minister to stay safe.

Father-of-two Chris Barrett (75), from Dibden Purlieu, passed away on Thursday just days after falling ill with the virus. He leaves his wife Gwen, daughters Linda and Emma – who is self-isolating with her mother – and grandchildren Amy, Charlotte, Jack, Caitlin and Ella.

The avid walker, who enjoyed spending time in the New Forest with his dog, had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer but was “very conscious” of the coronavirus guidelines, having been in and out of hospital frequently.

A statement from his relatives said: “The family is struggling to come to terms with Chris' death, but the grief is so much worse because we can't be together. One daughter is self-isolating with Gwen because she is vulnerable and cannot be alone.

"She has not been able to hug her mum and has not had a hug from her own husband or children. Her husband can't be there in her desperate time of need to comfort and reassure her.

“This is heartbreaking for everyone. People need to realise that coronavirus devastates lives without even infecting them with its poison.”

The statement added: “It's hard to imagine how we as a family are going to get through this, constantly watching and waiting for any symptoms and not knowing what might happen next.

"We are taking comfort from all the messages and phone calls from family and friends.”

Chris worked at Meridian News, which was previously known as TVS, for almost 30 years as a producer. He was also deputy editor at the Daily Echo, working there from 1971 to 1990.

Describing him as “such a modest man”, his family added: “It is only now we are realising just how highly-respected and loved he was by his colleagues. Chris was a great man and was loved by everyone that knew him.

“He, and us as a family, wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through the nightmare that we are living right now.

"If you don't think coronavirus will affect you, please, please think again. It can hit anyone and it will change your life in a way you cannot begin to imagine. Stick to the rules and don't take any chances.”

Chris’s daughters were able to spend precious time with him before he died, thanks to the staff on C5 ward at Southampton General Hospital.

The statement praised the way nursing staff dressed them from head to toe in protective clothing and made sure they followed the correct procedures going in and out of his room to keep them as safe as possible.

It added: “The staff were amazing, so caring and kind and totally selfless in their work. We cannot thank them enough.”

Linda told the A&T: “When he produced the Meridian bulletin, he always tried to include good news stories, he wanted to bring happiness to people at home and not doom and gloom.

"I know he would not want to be a bad news story himself, but he would be pleased to think us speaking about our situation might help to prevent another family from going through what we are now.

“This is not about scaremongering, but about trying to get people to understand that coronavirus is very real and not just something that happens to other people.”

Writing on Twitter, ITV News presenter Luke Castiglione said: “Chris taught many of us so much and always with patience and encouragement. Everyone at ITV Meridian will miss him.”

Among those paying tribute to Chris on Facebook was Gerry Duffett, who said: “Chris was captain of our crib team. The other players and I wish to send commiserations to Chris’s wife and family.”

Stephen Taylor, from Sargents Butchers in Dibden Purlieu, added: “I’ve known Chris for over 40 years as a friend and customer. He came in my shop most weeks. Such a lovely man, I am gutted.”

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