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‘We were courting for six years and married for 48. Suddenly i’m alone’: The untold COVID stories

Watch: Woman tells Covid inquiry how she will 'never get over' losing dad and sister to pandemic

A woman who lost her dad and her sister just five days apart to COVID-19 has told how she feels "guilty" that she couldn't spend more time with them in their final moments.

Jane, from the West Midlands, was one of several people to provide powerful video testimonies for the UK COVID-19 inquiry, which on Tuesday officially began its first day of evidence.

The first part of the public inquiry, chaired by Baroness Hallett, will look at the UK's preparedness to tackle the pandemic, as well as how the government handled the virus, to see if any lessons can be learned.

As the first session got underway, attendees were shown first-hand accounts from people who lost family members to the pandemic who are still looking for answers.

A common pain experienced by most was the inability to be close to their loved ones under such heart-breaking circumstances due to restrictions in place at the time.

Watch: Man tells Covid inquiry how his wife left hospital with Covid and died days later

Jane told how when her father was taken ill from his care home, she said she wasn't allowed to come along with him in the ambulance.

She said: “There’s a terrible disease out there and I need you to be the strongest you’ve ever been, I can’t come in this time, and he just said, ‘OK’."

Jane did have the chance to stay with her dad right before he died, and just hours later, she says her sister's partner texted her to say she was "unresponsive" and that an ambulance was on its way.

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Hospital staff warned she might not make the night, so Jane asked if it'd be possible for the family to be with her. She said: "We don’t want her to die alone, she was only 54 – and she died alone, five days after my dad.

“It’s terrible when somebody that you love dies, but to not help them make their final journey perfect and lovely, really hurts and that you can’t give them the send-off that they deserve really hurts.

Watch: Family will feel 'haunted forever' after dad died from Covid he caught in hospital

“It’s something I will never, ever, get over. At the time that he needed me the most, I wasn’t there, and I feel guilty about that, even though it wasn’t my fault."

John, from Wales, told the inquiry how his wife had COPD and was admitted to hospital with low oxygen levels.

He thought it was safe to pick her up after she'd undergone two COVID tests, but that night he woke up to see her on the edge of the bed coughing uncontrollably.

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"The ward rang to say that last test came back positive," he said. “I woke up and I was really, really ill – terrible – I must have phoned 999 and I can remember opening the door to paramedics, and then the next thing I knew I woke up in the ward.

“A couple of days after she did pass away. Suddenly I’m on my own. We were courting for six years and married for 48, and so this affected me a lot greatly, and I’m on my own now.”

Watch: Woman tells Covid inquiry how she had to watch father die from outside care home window

Catriona, from Northern Ireland, told how the circumstances leading up to the death of her 67-year-old father after contracting Covid in hospital, "will haunt us for the rest of our lives".

“At the end of anyone’s time, the most you can hope is to give your loved one a good death, and we will forever carry the guilt that our daddy was denied that.”

She added: "We need to know that lessons will be learned and that future generations will be safeguarded from the heartache that we have had to suffer."

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Catherine, from Wales, told how she was forced to watch her 86-year-old father die from outside his care home window in the icy and sleety rain.

“Dad’s arms reaching towards me to help him, and I couldn’t, it’s not really an ideal way to say goodbye to your father, or anyone," she said.

"I didn’t hug anybody from hearing Dad was going to die, he was so ill, right through to past the funeral, I didn’t hug anybody.

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“It was a frightening time, it was a very, very lonely time. Grief is lonely anyway, but grief at that time was so compounded by the absence of comfort, of closeness, of other humans.

“I used to be a nurse, so I know what a good death is, and I wasn’t able to give Dad that. It was hard. It was hard for so many people. I think everybody suffered somehow."