A HEARTBROKEN family has urged people to "stick to the rules" after the death of a loving grandfather from coronavirus.

Chris Barrett died in Southampton Hospital on Thursday after being admitted four days earlier with heart palpitations.

His two daughters were at his side, dressed from top to toe in protective clothing, and one is now in isolation with his grief-stricken wife.

The pair are unable to be with other members of the family.

Now they have spoken out amid hundreds of reports of people ignoring advice to stay at home to keep everyone safe.

In a statement from the whole family, they said: "If you don't think coronavirus will affect you, please, please think again. It can hit anyone and it will change your life in a way that you cannot begin to imagine. Stick to the rules and don't take any chances.

"This is heart-breaking for everyone. People need to realise that coronavirus devastates lives without even infecting them with its poison.

"It's hard to imagine how we as a family are going to get through this, constantly watching and waiting for any symptoms and not knowing what might happen next.

"He, and us as a family, wouldn't want anyone else to go through the nightmare that we are living right now."

Chris, 75, was a well-known and popular producer at Meridian News for 30 years and was deputy editor at the Daily Echo in Southampton, where he worked from 1971-1990.

He lived in Dibden Purlieu with his wife, Gwen. He leaves two daughters, Emma and Linda, and five grandchildren, Amy, Charlotte, Jack, Caitlin and Ella.

He was diagnosed with Covid-19 two days before he died and his family have high praise for the help he received in hospital.

The statement continued: "His daughters, with help from the staff on C5 ward at Southampton General Hospital, were able to spend some precious time with him before he died. The nursing staff dressed them from head to toe in protective clothing and made sure they followed the correct procedures going in and out of his room to keep them as safe as possible.

"The staff were amazing, so caring and kind and totally selfless in their work. We cannot thank them enough."

"The family is struggling to come to terms with Chris' death but the grief is so much worse because we can't be together. One daughter is self-isolating with Chris' wife because she is vulnerable and cannot be alone. She has not been able to hug her mum and has not had a hug from her own husband or children. Her husband can't be there for her in her desperate time of need to comfort and reassure her.

"We are taking comfort from all the messages and phone calls from family and friends. Chris worked for many years at Meridian News and was such a modest man. It is only now we are realising just how highly-respected and loved he was by his colleagues. Chris was a great man and was loved by everyone that knew him."

His daughter, Linda, spoke out about her father's positive attitude to life.

She said: "He was an avid walker. He walked in the New Forest every day with his dog Jill and in October last year, just before his cancer diagnosis, he completed the South West Coast path - 630 miles that he walked in stages over two years.

"When he produced the Meridian bulletin he always tried to include good news stories, he wanted to bring happiness to people at home and not doom and gloom. I know he would not want to be a bad news story himself, but he would be pleased to think us speaking about our situation might help to prevent another family from going through what we are now.

"This is not about scaremongering, but about trying to get people to understand that Coronavirus is very real and not just something that happens to other people."