As lockdown begins to ease and unlimited exercise is allowed in England, a nurse has pleaded with people to adhere strictly to social distancing rules.
Louise Wigginton, a specialist respiratory nurse working in an intensive care Covid-19 Red Zone in central London, said she was left feeling upset and unappreciated after seeing groups of people drinking and socialising in a park directly outside the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“They were sunbathing, drinking and meeting in large groups,” the 29-year-old said.
“My colleagues and I said to one another, ‘can they not see us up here?’.
“This was the realisation that people are already not listening to the rules and now that lockdown is softened, it will only get worse.”
Louise, from Hampshire, usually works 13-hour days and says she often does not take a break.
“I worry about leaving my patients alone because I know everyone is so busy,” she said.
Saturday 9 May, when temperatures reached highs of 23C (73.4F) in the city, was the most challenging shift Louise has worked in her seven years of nursing.
“My Covid-19 positive patient was the sickest patient I have ever had to manage.
“The patient was young, a healthcare professional and incredibly unstable. There was absolutely no reason why she had become so sick.
“I was so hot in my PPE that I thought I was going to faint. My eyes felt funny and my legs felt like jelly,” she said.
“Luckily with all the willpower I had, I held myself together and overcame this.”
Feeling a mixture of sadness, frustration and defeat, Louise said it took all her strength to hold back tears.
‘Knife in our backs’
Despite her own sacrifice, groups had no qualms flouting social distancing rules in a park directly opposite the ward where some patients were taking their last breath, Louise said.
“As I put all my efforts into saving your family and your friends there are people out there not even bothering to social distance”, the nurse said.
“Yes you may clap for the NHS. We do appreciate it, but what we do not appreciate is the clap to our face and the knife in our backs when you wave us off to work.”
After seven weeks of restrictions, lockdown measures were relaxed on Wednesday, allowing people to exercise outside more than once a day and permitting some to return to work.
This is extremely worrying for NHS staff, according to Louise, whose workplace the BBC has agreed not to name.
“We expect another peak. How many more people can we watch die a terrible death?
“How many people can we turn away from our specialised care? For how many years will I hear the cries of the families saying goodbye over Skype?
“We can only take so much. We are not heroes, we have no special superpowers to deal with this.
“If we fall, who will look after you then?”
She pleaded for people not to let her and her colleagues’ trauma be for nothing.
“Let’s stick together and keep the control over this virus.”
As told to BBC London Reporter Sarah Lee