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Patient contracted Covid after breaking isolation while ‘desperate for company’

Daniel Harkins, PA Scotland
·3-min read

A coronavirus patient has warned of the dangers of bending Covid-19 rules after a New Year’s Day whisky with neighbours led to him catching the virus after shielding for weeks.

Jim Cullen, 80, has been in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, for more than two weeks but will soon be discharged.

Following the recent death of his wife and struggling with isolation, he decided to visit neighbours for a drink.

Mr Cullen, from Paisley, contracted the virus, and now hopes his story will ensure others stick to the rules.

Jim Cullen
Jim Cullen said he was ‘desperate for company’ when he had a drink with his neighbours (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking to the PA news agency from his hospital bed in a Covid red ward, Mr Cullen said: “I was constantly not going out – totally not going out, everything at the front door.

“On New Year’s Day… I went into my neighbours for a couple of whiskies, we kept our distance but somewhere along the line in their house I picked it up.”

He said the disease hit him hard and he was shaking as he waited for an ambulance and later started hallucinating.

While he regrets visiting his neighbours, he acknowledged that self-isolating is difficult.

“You are desperate for company,” he said. “It’s a difficult thing to deal with and I had just lost my wife, so I’m searching for people to talk to apart from on the phone.”

Mr Cullen praised the NHS staff who treated him, saying they not only work in challenging circumstances but do so with good humour.

“They have really knocked their socks off to help people,” he said.

Covid patient John McAllister
Covid patient John McAllister receives care (Jane Barlow/PA)

John McAllister, 52, from nearby Johnstone, is being treated in the specialist assessment treatment area in the hospital.

He contracted Covid despite only visiting a handful of places outside of his home, and fears he gave it to his niece, who has asthma.

He said the symptoms started for him as a constant cough and then a high temperature, with his body shaking and he then found it hard to breathe.

Speaking from his hospital bed and struggling to breathe, he said: “One of my friends in the work has got it as well. I don’t know if he got it from me or someone else, but he’s got it and he was giving me a lift to work.

“My niece has got it as well, she is in the house with me and my niece’s boyfriend has got it as well – my niece has bad asthma.

“I’d been in the shop for 20 minutes, half-an-hour from start to finish, hadn’t spoke to anybody apart from the boy at the counter, got my messages and left, and then Thursday I went and got the test and Friday morning got the results and it was positive.

“It just shows how quick it does spread and I hope people understand that, that it does spread fast and take heed.

“It is really serious, it spreads really fast – I’m an example, and I was taking precautions.”

Irene Cairns, a patient in Ward 5
Irene Cairns, a coronavirus patient in Ward 5 at the hospital (Jane Barlow/PA)

Irene Cairns is in Ward 5 of the hospital after catching Covid-19.

She is well enough to sit next to her bed but wears a breathing mask.

The 78-year-old, from Renfrew, said she is more concerned about her son than herself, and how much he worries about her.

“My son is going crazy with worry,” she said. “He wanted to come up and see me, I said no way absolutely not.”

She expressed her frustration at members of the public who do not take coronavirus measures seriously.

“They won’t listen,” she said. “I just wish they’d be more caring to each other and wear their masks.”

She said she is looking forward to going home.

“I’ll have a cup of tea and snuggle into the settee with a movie on the telly,” she said.