Retired GP broke Covid rules to hug bereaved woman at clinic

A retired GP says he has been “humbled” by the response to a social media post on why he broke Covid rules to hug a bereaved woman at a vaccine clinic.

Dr Prit Buttar’s Twitter thread has generated hundreds of responses and thousands of likes and retweets.

He said he had been prompted to post by the political row surrounding gatherings at 10 Downing Street.

Dr Buttar said that showed a “huge disconnection” from the lives of ordinary people.

He retired to near Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway in 2016 but worked part-time in practices across the region until 2019.

However, he volunteered to assist – helping to set up local Covid hubs – when the coronavirus pandemic began a year later.

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He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme why he decided to breach social distancing regulations.

“This was just under a year ago,” he said.

“I was working in one of the vaccine clinics and one of the reception staff came through and asked if we could fit in somebody who should have come a few days before but had missed her appointment.

“Of course, we said that’s fine and when she came in – this was a lady in her late 60s or early 70s, I can’t remember the details now – she was so apologetic that she had wasted an appointment and apologised again and again and we reassured her.”

He said they had told the woman someone else would have used the slot she had missed and then she had explained why she had not attended.



Image source, Getty Images

“She and her husband had moved to Scotland just immediately before the pandemic broke and as soon as they arrived in Scotland, her husband discovered that he had cancer,” said Dr Buttar.

“She had cared for him through the first lockdown and through the summer that followed and he had died shortly before her appointment to come to see us.

“Because her son lived in England and his wife had Covid, he was unable to come up to be with her.”

He said that meant she had had to deal with the death of her husband having had little chance to establish a friend network in the area.

“This poor woman was very, very much alone,” he said.

“And I just took the decision that this was an occasion where I was going to break the rules, and I leaned forward and embraced her.

“This poor person just dissolved into tears and as she sobbed, she told me that I was the first person who had embraced her since her husband had died.”

‘Tremendous fortitude’

He explained why he had taken to social media to share his experience.

“I posted on Twitter about this just to make the point that, you know, ordinary people dealt with their loss and their loneliness with tremendous fortitude and resignation and stoicism and what a contrast to the behaviour of the prime minister and his entourage,” he said.

Dr Buttar said many people had responded to the story.

“Everyone in the thread who said they’d broken the rules had done so in order to help somebody else, not because they wanted to have a party,” he said.

“The other thread of it was the people who hadn’t broken the rules who had watched loved ones die over an iPad and now bitterly regretted that they hadn’t taken that moment just to say goodbye to their loved one.

“One of the universal comments that I have seen when I’ve looked at the thread from people is that the gulf between everyday experiences and the behaviour of the prime minister is so vast.

“This is not something for which an apology – a promise to do better – will ever suffice.”

Boris Johnson admitted at Prime Minister’s Questions last week that he had joined colleagues for drinks in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 for around 25 minutes, to thank them for their hard work during the pandemic, but had “believed implicitly” it was a work event.

He apologised for his handling of the event, saying he understood people’s “rage”.

Civil servant Sue Gray has been appointed to investigate allegations of parties held at Downing Street while the UK was in lockdown due to Covid.

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