England’s chief nurse has paid tribute to two frontline nurses who died after testing positive for coronavirus, as she made an emotional plea for the public to stay at home this weekend despite a mini-heatwave due to sweep the country.
Ruth May said it was vital the public remain in lockdown despite the warm spring weather.
Mother-of-three Aimee O’Rourke, 39, passed away last night at the QEQM Hospital in Margate, Kent, following the surfacing of symptoms two weeks ago.
Just hours later, Areema Nasreen, 36, died shortly after midnight in intensive care at Walsall Manor Hospital, West Midlands, were she had worked.
Flanking Health Secretary Matt Hancock at a news conference this afternoon, Ms May said: ‘This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays.
‘But please, I ask to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.’
Mr Hancock echoed her, saying people should resist the urge to get out and about, saying: ‘If we do people will die’.
The UK’s coronavirus death toll rose by 684 on Friday to take the total number of tragic fatalities so far to 3,605.
The 24-hour total has risen by a record amount almost every day this week, with a five-fold increase in deaths in a week.
Ms Nasreen, 36, died shortly after midnight in intensive care at Walsall Manor Hospital, West Midlands, were she had worked.
The NHS employee of 16 years, who started in housekeeping before training as a nurse, was diagnosed with the infection in late March after developing a soaring temperature, body aches and a cough.
Both nurses were put on ventilators but sadly could not be saved, taking the toll of health workers to die with the virus during the pandemic to seven.
Ms May expressed her condolences to their families, friends and colleagues and said she feared further nurses will die.
She said: ‘They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family. I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.’
Ms O’Rourke had three daughters, Maddie, Mollie and Meghan, who described her mother as an ‘angel’ who will ‘wear [her] NHS crown forevermore’.
Loved ones of Ms Nasreen and Ms O’Rourke begged the public to take the virus seriously in an urgent wake-up call to those flouting social distancing rules.
A heartbroken relative of Ms Nasreen today paid tribute to the mother-of-three and said: ‘The immediate family are devastated. Everyone is in shock this morning.
‘She was always so full of life. She was devoted to her job as a nurse, she absolutely loved it. She passed away doing what she loved.
‘I’m really sad for the rest of the family, she was a fantastic person.’
Nurse Rubi Aktar paid tribute to her ‘best friend’, who she described as the ‘most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet’.
In an emotional Facebook post, she wrote: ‘I am so broken that words can’t explain. I can’t believe I will not see your smile again.
‘You made me the nurse that I am today, with your support, motivation and inspiration I am the nurse that I am today and I hope I can do you proud Areema.
‘I love you so much and I will never forget you. You had so much to live for, I am sorry you didn’t get to see your kids grow up and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to complete your career.’
When ‘fit and healthy’ Ms Nasreen was first diagnosed, sister Kazeema warned Britons that it is ‘not just the elderly at risk’ to coronavirus, which has killed 3,605 and infected more than 38,000 in the UK.
Kazeema said: ‘My sister who is an amazing nurse on the front line and who always helps so many has now caught this virus. She is critically ill in ICU, on a ventilator and fighting for her life.
‘I want everyone to know how dangerous this is. My sister is only 36 and is normally fit and healthy.
‘People are not taking this seriously enough. She is young – it is not just the elderly who are at risk.’
This warning was echoed by friends of Ms O’Rourke, who paid tribute to the ‘one in a million’ nurse.
Friend Hannah Walden wrote on Facebook: ‘Yesterday heaven gained a beautiful young lady.
‘I was lucky to know her and work with her when I worked for CDU (clinical decision unit) QEQM. You were an amazing nurse and mum sleep tight Aimee O’Rourke God bless.’
Lucy Page said: ‘Every now and again special people come into your life and they have the highest impact.
‘Aimee O’Rourke taught me to fight for what I believe in and gave me courage so many times to do it.
‘…Aimee I love you and not a single day will go by when I don’t think. about you. You were one in a million and you are going to leave such an empty space in all our hearts forever. Miss you already.
‘PLEASE the next time you think about going out or meeting people unnecessarily… think again!!!’
Her daughter Meghan also posted a tribute and hailed her mother’s dedication to saving lives.
She wrote: ‘You are an angel and you will wear your NHS crown forever more because you earned that crown the very first day you started!!!
‘Your Meggy misses you beyond belief.. one day when I have children of my own I will tell your grandchildren about their GG (glamorous gran) which you wanted to be called, every single day!
‘I can’t believe one day I will have to go through labour without my mummy!!
‘I could go on all day long and have so many things to say but I have to be strong!! Night mummy.’
Health chiefs urged locked-down Britons to continue staying at home to help fight the coronavirus pandemic this weekend as a mini-heatwave is due to sweep the country.
Large parts of the UK will enjoy ‘a good deal of sunshine’ on Saturday, with the weather ‘feeling warmer than recently’, according to the Met Office. Sunday also looks dry from many, with warm sunshine in the East.
Temperatures are forecast to reach as high as 68F (20C) on Sunday, but the rising mercury has left medical bosses concerned that families tired of quarantine could be tempted to break the rules and make day trips out.
As a result, police forces are bracing themselves to deter visitors to popular beauty spots – with the mild, sunny weather also expected to last into the start of next week for southern and eastern areas.
Officers are now priming themselves for potential clashes with sun-seekers, picnickers and travellers as the Easter holiday period begins.
Amid the grim coronavirus crisis – which has killed nearly 3,000 in the UK – there has been an outpouring of gratitude for the nation’s NHS workers who continue to do treat the sick.
Last night at 8pm, Britons up and down the country lined the streets to applaud frontline health workers putting their lives on the line.
When Ms Nasreena was in hospital, Kazeema revealed her sister’s affection to the NHS.
She said: ‘Areema loves the NHS. Her colleagues are like a second family and they have been truly amazing with her – and us. They are keeping us all strong and doing everything they can for her.
‘The Manor Hospital are brilliant and she has loved working there for over 15 years. She started off as housekeeping, then a Healthcare Assistant and now is qualified as a staff nurse.
‘She is my queen and is truly loved by everyone – always putting others first. We are heartbroken.’
Areema had previously spoken of the joy she takes from her job as a nurse: ‘I just wanted to be able to look after people, particularly those who are elderly and vulnerable.
‘I cry every morning because I am so happy that I have finally realised my dream of becoming a nurse.’