[WATCH] My father died of COVID-19 after a year indoors: I couldn’t go to his funeral and it’s hell

The appeal of TV panellist Jeremy Camilleri to the public a week after losing his father to COVID: ‘He could have been your father, mother, or sibling. How can the public not realise that this experience will break them? My family is beside itself with sadness and anger’

Jeremy Camileri on L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa
Jeremy Camileri on L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa

Poignant, composed, reflective: even in the face of his father’s recent death from pulmonary complications due to COVID-19, former General Workers Union postal union worker Jeremy Camilleri mustered one of the strongest appeals ever to those who remain unfazed by the stratospheric increase in COVID-19 infections in Malta.

Camilleri, a frequent TV panelist, shared his pain at being unable to even attend his own father’s funeral, and having been unable to be by his side when he contracted COVID-19 while being cared for in hospital. “It is hell… I would not wish it on my worst enemy. My young brother had to handle the funeral all by himself,” Camilleri said on L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa on TVM.

“So when I see people drinking and partying, I say ‘these people are mad’… Joe Camilleri could have been their father, their mother, their sibling. How can they not realise that this experience will break them? My family is beside itself with sadness and anger. We must realise the scale of this problem, now!”

Camilleri said he has complained with Mater Dei Hospital of not having been informed in a timely fashion that his father had a pulmonary embolism, and that at a point where his lungs were weak, he was placed in hall with 13 other patients, from where doctors said he contracted COVID-19. “I asked them why was he not placed in a smaller ward. Their answer was: we don’t have any such place. And this was a week ago… so if there’s some big boy out there who thinks what happened in Italy cannot happen to us, forget it. It can happen to us.”

Camilleri’s father spent the main part of the entire COVID year indoors, with Camilleri himself, as a previous guest on the same TVM programme, having said that the first thing he will do once the pandemic is over was to go out to a restaurant with his father.

“We spent a year protecting our father… he went once to hospital and he died. We still have remorse for what happened. What would it feel like had it been us who passed on COVID-19 to him?”

Malta has once again reached an alarming state of COVID-19 infections, with 510 cases in one day on Thursday prompting new urgent restrictions akin to a semi-lockdown of businesses in a bid to keep people away from social gatherings. But the government is coming in for a lot of flak due to the record-breaking cases that happened almost entirely in the months of January and February, with action being taken only in March.

“The government has made a lot of mistakes,” Camilleri said. “It was a mistake for the Prime Minister to play down the second wave concerns… but you cannot pin it on the prime minister only, the public has to take responsibilty for its actions as well… even the state of Mater Dei Hospital is not being taken into consideration, and not being given enough attention.”