A BLACKBURN son is pleading that people take coronavirus seriously after losing both his parents within days of each other to the virus.

Coronavirus is currently at its highest level in the borough, with an infection rate of 770.1 per 100,000 people after 1,147 new cases were discovered in the last week.

Fakir Sacha said: “This virus is serious, and it’s here in Blackburn. You could catch it from anywhere and bring it home to your loved ones.

“Don’t treat it lightly, and take precautions to protect you and your family.”

Fakir and his wife Mohsina caught the virus first and through trying to socially distance at home, their two children stayed virus-free.

Unfortunately Fakir’s elderly parents, Ismail and Amina, developed persistent coughs and high temperatures before testing positive for coronavirus, and they quickly became weak.

The family were concerned, as both 78-year-old Ismail and Amina, 85, were diabetic and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol and Ismail also suffered from angina.

Fakir said: “Mum’s condition worsened first. Everything happened so quickly, and the virus really took hold of her.

“One Friday she was unresponsive so we called an ambulance. Her oxygen levels had dropped dramatically and she had pneumonia, and she needed to go to hospital.

“She wanted one of us to go with her, but because of the restrictions we couldn’t. That was the hardest part.

“But Mum had been in hospital before and had always pulled through – she was a fighter. We thought this time would be no different.”

The following afternoon, Fakir got a call from the hospital to say his mum had died.

“The hardest part was not being able to be with my mum at the hospital, and not having the chance to say goodbye or give her a hug,” Fakir added.

“It was so sad that we couldn’t have been with her, to comfort her.”

The virus had already weakened Ismail. He didn’t have much of an appetite, and with the shock of losing his wife, he wasn’t eating properly.

Two days after his mum’s death, Fakir's father suffered a heart attack and died later in hospital and staff said there was nothing they could do for him.

“It was a shock,” Fakir said. “Up until catching the virus, mum and dad were both quite active for their age and very independent, doing their own shopping, cooking and cleaning.

“We all felt so empty, at home on our own at a time when people would normally visit. We couldn’t even go to the funerals.

“My sister and her family were having to self-isolate as they had the virus too. My parents had a lot of friends, in Blackburn and from further afield. None of them could come to pay their respects.”

In Muslim culture, it’s normal for friends and family to visit when there’s a bereavement, but because of local coronavirus restrictions and Fakir and his family having the virus too, this was not able to happen.

He said: “It was a very dark period. We had to be strong, and we got through it. Our neighbours were amazing, really supportive.

“They’d knock on the door to check that we were OK and give us moral support. We wouldn’t have got through it without them.”

In Blackburn with Darwen since March, there have been 114 deaths due to Covid-19.

The borough, along with the rest of Lancashire, went into Tier 3 of the government’s new Covid alert levels on October 17, with tighter restrictions aimed at bringing down the rate of infection and easing the burden on our local NHS.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, said: "It’s so brave of Fakir to share his story, and my condolences go to him and his family. Sadly, his story is just one example of a local family that has lost loved ones before their time.

“Stories like this should remind us that the virus could affect any of us at any time. We must be vigilant, and we must follow the rules to help limit the spread of the virus.

“Now that Lancashire is in Tier 3 of the restrictions, the next month is critical to getting the virus under control.

“As Fakir says, please take the virus seriously. It is here in our neighbourhoods and we all have a part to play in getting it under control – and getting back to doing the things we enjoy with the people we love sooner.”