Britain's oldest known coronavirus survivor has advised that we should “keep calm”, “keep busy” and eat an orange a day.
Angela Hutor has lived through both World Wars and five respiratory pandemics including the 1918 Spanish Flu. She caught Covid-19 in April and nearly died but has lived to tell the tale.
Celebrating her 107th birthday with a glass of champagne last week, she was asked for the secret of a long life. “Count your blessings. That’s important”, she said, “and a fresh orange every day – cut into quarters, not juiced.”
Mrs Hutor’s parents are Italian but she moved first to Cannes in France and then to London when she was eight. She remembers age five or six, the Spanish Flu pandemic which swept Europe towards the end of the First World War, killing millions.
There were few social distancing measures then, with the British and other governments rejecting them for fear they would undermine the war effort.
She said: “We just went on as usual. People went to work and carried on as best they could. Not like today. We just carried on. No masks.”
She believes we could learn a thing or two from previous pandemics and advises family and friends to “keep calm”.
“Work is important and keep busy. Keep occupied, use your brain as much as you can and that should keep you going.
“I’m not really worried about the current situation, I’ve had the virus. [But] I think a depression will come from this - I’m afraid it’s going to be as bad the 1930s”.
“But even though there was a depression, we managed to get by, we weren’t flashy. That's what young people need to do today.
"I think it will get back to normal. We will get through this.”
Mrs Hutor now lives in the Little Sisters of the Poor care home in Stock Newington, North East London. When she was eight her father, who worked at the Hyde Park Hotel, now the Mandarin Orient in Knightsbridge, brought her to London and she was put into a convent boarding school.
One of her most vivid memories is of the Jarrow marchers, who walked from the Tyneside town of Jarrow to London in 1936 to protest about unemployment and poverty.
“I thought, I must go and see them. They looked haggard, totally dejected, but also dignified. They walked in really calmly,” she recalled.
Mrs Hutor was not allowed to help with the national effort during the Second World War because as an Italian national without a British passport she was classed as an “enemy alien” and had to report to the police if she changed address.
“They all treated me with courtesy, I used to think that is the English way,” she said.
Mrs Hutor met her husband Paul after the war and they married when she was 36. They bought a house in Islington, North East London in the 1950s.
She has held an array of jobs over the years including being a shorthand typist, receptionist, nanny and nightclub florist.
Her husband passed away in the late 1990s but she lived independently until she was well into her 90s with support from her daughter Pauline.
She moved to live at the Little Sisters of the Poor care home last year and contracted Covid-19 in April at the peak of the UK outbreak. Dependent on piped oxygen and barely able to eat or drink, the sisters looking after her feared she would die.
Her daughter, Pauline said: “I was told it could be any minute. Considering mum’s age I had kind of prepared for it, but when I saw her she looked terrible – she was white as a sheet.
“Then virtually the next day she started rallying round. I was getting updates and then on VE Day she was up with a glass of wine, waving a little flag… it was quite miraculous really”.
Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security