Covid-19 victim’s son criticises ‘stupidity’ of people flouting official advice

The son of a fit and healthy grandfather who died after contracting Covid-19 has criticised the "stupidity" of people flouting official stay-at-home advice.

Neil Hames was speaking after the death of his father, Walter Hames, who died at Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital on Sunday evening. He was 75.

His son criticised the "flippant" behaviour of people for not taking the virus seriously.

He spoke of his disbelief on seeing reports of 20 people gathering for a barbecue in the street, in Coventry, on Tuesday, two days after his father's death.

On Monday, strict measures had been introduced, banning public gatherings of more than two people, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the public they "must stay at home".

Mr Hames, 48, added that while going to Heartlands Hospital to collect his father's death certificate, on Wednesday, some visitors were still ignoring advice to keep two metres from one another.

He said: "I need people to understand my dad didn't deserve this.

"He was so fit, he had another 10 or 15 years in him I am sure.

"But he's been taken away by this awful disease.

"There were people in Coventry, 20-plus people having a barbecue – I mean what is the matter with people.

"It is real, we've got to work together to beat this, don't be so flippant.

"If my dad could be taken by it, then so could someone they knew."

Walter Hames and family
Walter Hames and family

He described how a friend on social media had posted the virus was "a conspiracy", then refused to remove the post even after Mr Hames told him of his father's death.

Mr Hames, from Solihull, said his 73-year-old mother, Marina, had also been left to grieve in self-isolation at home and he was unable to even hug her.

He added that instead he had been sitting on a garden chair placed on her driveway, while she sat in the porch, so they can at least communicate.

Mr Hames, a sales director at an incident management software firm, warned that it was clear anyone could contract Covid-19.

He said: "I just cannot believe the stupidity of people not taking this seriously.

"My dad went to Weston, did some gardening, went shopping with my mom, and visited my sister's or mine.

"That was his life.

"He wasn't an out-and-about guy, he was private, what he did was just around family and his home.

"I don't know if I gave it to him – that is my guilt.

"Or he got it somewhere, picking up a knife and fork in a restaurant in Weston, or shopping in the supermarket.

"But the day he died – when we'd been told about social distancing – people were out in the park, kids playing together, people standing around, like a normal Sunday.

"Carry on like everything was normal.

"On the Friday when Boris said the bars would close, some friends on Facebook had all gone out for a last night on the piss – 20 or 30 lads on there, saying 'f*** the virus'.

"They think they're untouchable, like it's a movie, like it isn't real."

He added: "The reason I'm sharing this story, is if my dad can get it, other people can."

Walter Hames, known as Wally or Big Wal, was a Birmingham City FC supporter, a keen gardener and a retired Birmingham City Council environmental health officer.

He had two children and three grandchildren.

Born in Camp Hill in Birmingham, but living most of his life in Yardley, he had played for Coventry City FC in the early 1960s alongside Bobby Gould, when the team was managed by Jimmy Hill.


Mr Hames told how his father had developed a tickling cough on about March 4, while on a trip with his wife to Weston-super-Mare.

On returning home, Walter Hames started self-isolating but by the next week was feeling fatigued and running a temperature, as was his wife.

By the Friday, he was ill enough that the family called 111 to be told he was a "possible" Covid-19 case.

Through the week of March 16, he got progressively worse and had a temperature of 39C.

After calling 999, he spoke on the phone to a paramedic, who told him he had all the symptoms of Covid-19.

Three days later, paramedics were called to the family home.

Mr Hames said: "They said he had all the symptoms but could say for sure it was Covid-19, but that he couldn't be tested unless he was at hospital.

"But they did say that because of the time that had passed since his first symptoms, he had probably broken the back of it and he'd get through, so long as he kept drinking fluids, eating and taking paracetamol."

After a bad night, the family again called paramedics who said they could take Mr Hames' father in, but with the amount of cases at hospital, he may be exposed to Covid-19.

Mr Hames said: "They said under normal circumstances they would take him but because there were a lot of cases at hospital – and he might not have it – he would get it if they did take him."

At 7.30pm on March 22, Mr Hames spoke to his father "who couldn't breathe" and asked his mother to dial 999.

Mr Hames said: "He got to Heartlands Hospital at 8.30pm and he was gone at 10.30pm."

On Wednesday, Mr Hames said it had been confirmed his father had Covid-19 when he died and it was thought he had suffered heart failure.

He said: "I don't blame the paramedics at all, what they're dealing with is unprecedented.

"But I just feel guilt at – did I make the right decision, in not asking them to take him to hospital?"

He added the family were now having to make funeral arrangements, with the number of people they can invite limited by Covid-19.