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A 34-year-old father who has spent nearly five months in hospital after he almost died with COVID has told of his “blind panic” after the virus left him “gasping for air” - and he is urging the government to be cautious over the lifting of all restrictions.

Graham Horsfall has been a patient at Warrington Hospital since 16 January after contracting coronavirus during the peak of the second wave, and is still barely able to walk.

The IT consultant, who has no known underlying health condition, spent more than four months in an intensive care unit (ICU) and was told by medics he had just a 16% chance of survival.

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Graham Horsfall spent more than four months in an ICU ward. Pic: Graham Horsfall
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Mr Horsfall spent more than four months in an ICU ward. Pic: Graham Horsfall

As the government considers whether to stick with its plan to remove all COVID restrictions on 21 June amid a rise in cases linked to the Indian (Delta) variant, Mr Horsfall has urged ministers to continue with some measures including rules on face masks.

“I think they should be cautious,” he told Sky News.

“I wouldn’t just go: ‘Right okay, back to normal.’

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“They could pick and choose things that could be relaxed a bit more, but also keep an eye on it.

“I think masks are here to stay for a long time… and they should be really.

“You’re not going to get rid of (the virus). It is going to come back again as it evolves and mutates as a disease.”

Graham Horsfall has urged the government to be cautious over the lifting of all restrictions. Pic: Graham Horsfall
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Mr Horsfall has urged the government to be cautious over the lifting of all restrictions. Pic: Graham Horsfall

Mr Horsfall has urged people to take coronavirus seriously after challenging COVID conspiracy theorists about their views online – including members of his own family.

“I’ve got family members on Facebook saying it’s all a conspiracy and a government plot to keep us all indoors and reset the economy,” he said.

“People are losing people day in a day out. It’s affecting people long-term. It affects everybody in different ways.

“I’ve seen people on Facebook saying: ‘No one I know has had it.’ I message them and say: ‘Well now you do.'”

Mr Horsfall, who has a five-year-old son called Ollie and six-year-old daughter named Lily, began isolating at home in January after a colleague contracted COVID.

Graham Horsfall could not see his children, Lily, six, and five-year-old Ollie, for months after falling critically with COVID. Pic: Graham Horsfall
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Mr Horsfall’s daughter Lily, six, and five-year-old son Ollie. Pic: Graham Horsfall

Three days later, he began coughing before his condition deteriorated and he started to “gasp for air”.

His wife Emma called for an ambulance and he was rushed to Warrington Hospital, where he continues to be treated today.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe,” Mr Horsfall said. “It was really scary.

“At that point, they told me they’re going to have to put me on a ventilator because I need more oxygen.

“I am in blind panic at this point. The last thing I remember doing before they put me under was transferring money to my wife because it wasn’t looking good.”

Mr Horsfall’s wife and children were isolating themselves so they could not accompany him to hospital.

Graham Horsfall, who has spent nearly five months in hospital after contracting COVID, pictured with his wife Emma. Pic: Graham Horsfall
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Mr Horsfall pictured with his wife Emma. Pic: Graham Horsfall

After arriving at hospital, he says he was hooked up to a ventilator and sedated.

“Basically my breathing was being done for me by a machine. It’s the only thing that kept me alive,” Mr Horsfall said.

“It’s just full on fear. It’s the unknown. Am I going to come out of this or am I not?”

Mr Horsfall said he only regained consciousness again in mid-February but he was “dazed and confused” and his condition quickly deteriorated.

He was given a tracheotomy and had to be sedated again before he awoke to find he was “literally paralysed” after suffering from muscle atrophy, meaning his muscles had wasted away.

“I could move one arm,” Mr Horsfall said.

“I couldn’t move my other arm, I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t move my torso. I was literally paralysed.”

Mr Horsfall, who could not talk due to his tracheotomy pipe, said he initially thought he has having an hallucination when he woke up before he was handed his phone so he could text his wife.

Graham Horsfall's wife Emma and their children Lily and Ollie. Pic: Graham Horsfall
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Mr Horsfall was unable to see his children for months while in hospital. Pic: Graham Horsfall

He added: “One of the nurses turned around to me and basically said, based on the treatment I had…it had an 84% mortality rate – so 84% of people that had the same treatment as me, didn’t make it.

“It was a proper eye-opener.”

Mr Horsfall said seeing other COVID patients around him lose their lives was “harrowing”, including a man in his 20s who had recently become a father.

“You sit there thinking: ‘Bloody hell, it will literally take any age’,” he said.

“It’s not just taking the elderly, which people think.

“They would do their best to shield you from people passing away.

“Every time a curtain was shut, we knew someone had passed away on the ward. And that happened all the time.

“It’s harrowing for people. You make friends with people. Even though you couldn’t talk, you would give them a wave. And then all sudden that person’s gone.”

Mr Horsfall said his wife – who also caught the virus in January but only suffered mild symptoms – was unable to visit him when he first gained consciousness in mid-February due to the hospital’s COVID rules.

He added: “She was having to deal with the fact that she thought I was going to die while looking after our kids as well, which isn’t easy.

“She’s done amazing. Absolutely amazing. She’s doesn’t think she has, if you ask her, but she has – she’s done amazing.”

Mr Horsfall was only able to speak again after his tracheotomy pipe was removed on 12 March.

At that point, he was allowed to have one hour-long visit per week, with Mrs Horsfall required to wear full PPE and undergo temperature checks before seeing her husband.

However, Mr Horsfall had to wait until the start of May to see his children in person again when his daughter visited.

“That was emotional,” he said.

“It was a massive boost for me, mentally and physically, because it makes you push that bit harder. You take those extra couple of steps when you’re doing physio.”

Mr Horsfall said he was the last COVID patient on the ICU ward when he moved out on 25 May and he is now being treated on a respiratory ward.

He said his muscles had “rotted away” due to his lack of movement while in hospital and that he was now doing rehabilitation work and seeing a physio every day.

“I walk with a zimmer frame now, that’s how I get around,” Mr Horsfall said.

“Because of the COVID, probably the furthest I’ve gone without being out of breath is about 15 metres.

“Then you just get so breathless you have to sit down because your lungs are knackered due to COVID.

“There’s a lot of work to put in yet.”

Mr Horsfall does not know when he will be able to leave hospital but doctors believe he should be able to make a full recovery due to his age.

They are now considering whether he will be able to continue his recuperation at home in the future or in a rehabilitation centre.

“I’ve been here long enough,” Mr Horsfall said.

“I just want to be home to see my kids.”

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Health secretary on Indian (Delta) variant

He recently had his first COVID jab “to be on the safe side” because he fears he would not survive catching the virus again.

The health secretary says the Indian variant has made the decision about whether to lift lockdown restrictions on 21 June “more difficult” due to its higher rate of transmission.

Matt Hancock told Sky News the Delta variant was 40% more transmissible than the Kent (Alpha) strain, leaving the easing of social distancing in the balance for the original target date.

Ministers are “drawing up other options” before a decision is made on the 21 June easing, a government official told Sky News.

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Jay Slater: Photographs show Tenerife property where missing British teenager was last seen

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Jay Slater: Photographs show Tenerife property where missing British teenager was last seen

Photographs show the Tenerife property where British teenager Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen before he went missing on Monday.

A Snapchat video shared by the 19-year-old on Sunday night appears to show the property he visited in the northwestern mountain village of Masca after attending the NRG music festival.

Mr Slater, from Oswaldtwistle near Blackburn in Lancashire, was holidaying with friends on the island before he went missing.

The property where Mr Slater is believed to have been last seen
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The property where Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen

His friend Lucy Law told Wednesday’s UK Tonight programme on Sky News that she spoke to Mr Slater on the phone at about 8.15am local time on Monday.

During the short phone call, he told her he had missed a bus trying to get back to his holiday accommodation so was attempting to walk instead – a journey that would take 11 hours.

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Missing British teen’s friend speaks to Sky News

She said he told her he had “cut his leg on a cactus“, didn’t know where he was and his mobile phone battery was down to 1%.

Ms Law also said Mr Slater told her he “needed a drink”.

He was able to send her his last live location which showed as the Rural de Teno Park – a mountainous area popular with hikers – before his phone cut out.

Ms Law said Mr Slater, an apprentice bricklayer, is “not a stupid boy” and would have flagged down any passing car or spoken to a passerby.

Soon after Mr Slater went missing, an American woman offered to drive Ms Law up into the mountains.

There was “literally no sign of him anywhere”, she said. “We drove around all day.”

Ms Law added that they “managed to find the house” where Mr Slater was last seen.

She continued: “I knocked on the door and there were two people there.”

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The property where Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen

They told Ms Law that Mr Slater had gone out for a cigarette before going back in and saying he wanted to go home.

“They told me he’d spoken to the next door neighbours and they’d told him there was a bus every 10 minutes back down to Los Cristianos.

“The bus stop was right next to the house. So obviously if he’d gone to get the bus he wouldn’t have got lost because it [the stop] was visible from the front door.”

Tenerife map for Jay Slater story
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Jay Slater’s phone’s last live location was Rural de Teno Park. The search has also focused on Los Cristianos

The teenager was wearing a T-shirt and shorts and was without food and water, she added.

“It’s very warm in the day and very cold at night,” Ms Law said.

“So in the day he’s going to be really warm without a drink, and then at night he’s going to be very cold without any suitable clothing.”

Read more:
Today is a ‘key day’ in search – local journalist says
Former Coronation Street star prays for his safe return

Jay Slater. Pic: Lucy Law
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Pic: Lucy Law

Pic: Reuters
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A rescue team searches the Masca ravine. Pic: Reuters

Earlier, she told the Manchester Evening News someone Mr Slater had met on the night out had driven him back to their apartment in a hire car without him realising how far away it was.

“He’s ended up out in the middle of nowhere. Jay was obviously thinking he would be able to get home from there,” she told the newspaper.

‘A living nightmare’

Mr Slater’s mother Debbie Duncan, who flew to the island and has joined mountain rescuers and the local civil guard in the search for her son, has called his disappearance “an absolute living nightmare”.

Search teams refocused their efforts on Thursday in the north of Tenerife, where Rural de Teno Park is located, after discounting a potential lead in the south of the island, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, a Tenerife-based journalist said today is a “key day” in the search for Mr Slater.

Clio O’Flynn told Sky News: “If he’s taken shelter, the hope is he’s waiting for help to come along,”

She added: “The problem will be ‘does he have a phone signal? Will people be able to locate him? Can he hear their cries?'”

Police officers search for a missing  Masca ravine on the island of Tenerife.
Pic: Reuters
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Police officers search the Masca ravine. Pic: Reuters

Ms O’Flynn said the search had been “very intense” with teams using all the resources at their disposal, including “mountain specialists, search dogs, drones and helicopters” and are “taking suggestions from his family, so it’s very coordinated”.

The area where he is believed to have gone missing is a “dry, arid, part of the island”, and, given its volcanic origins, has “ravines and gullies”, Ms O’Flynn said.

She warned there are “no lakes, rivers or streams, so it would be quite hard for him to access fresh water”.

Temperatures have been about 26C (79F), she said, but warned that “if you’re lost, 25C is very hot”.

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has been reported missing in Spain and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The Spanish Civil Guard told UK media they are “doing everything possible” to find Mr Slater.

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Spurs player Rodrigo Bentancur apologises for racist joke about teammate Son Heung-min

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Spurs player Rodrigo Bentancur apologises for racist joke about teammate Son Heung-min

Tottenham Hotspur captain Son Heung-min has said teammate Rodrigo Bentancur knows he “made a mistake” after making racist joke about him.

Bentancur was asked on Uruguayan TV for a Spurs player’s shirt, to which he replied: “Sonny’s? It could be Sonny’s cousin too, as they all look the same.”

Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out said it had received a “significant number” of complaints.

The Uruguayan midfielder apologised on social media, describing it as a “very bad joke”, with Son later saying the pair were “brothers” and “nothing has changed at all”.

Tottenham said in a statement: “We fully support that our captain Sonny feels that he can draw a line under the incident and that the team can focus on the new season ahead.

“We are extremely proud of our diverse, global fanbase and playing squads. Discrimination of any kind has no place at our club, within our game or within wider society.”

In the same post, the club quotes Son as saying: “I’ve spoken with Lolo (Bentancur). He made a mistake, he knows this and has apologised.

“Lolo would not mean to ever intentionally say something offensive. We are brothers and nothing has changed at all.

“We’re past this, we’re united, and we will be back together in pre-season to fight for our club as one.”

Bentancur had previously posted: “Sonny brother! I apologise to you for what happened, it was just a very bad joke.”

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Spurs’s Premier League season kicks off at newly promoted Leicester City on 19 August, followed by games against Everton, Newcastle and arch-enemy Arsenal.

Bentancur is currently preparing to represent Uruguay at this summer’s Copa America in the US, which starts on 20 June.

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Woman admits manslaughter after riding away on mobility scooter, leaving owner in freezing temperatures

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Woman admits manslaughter after riding away on mobility scooter, leaving owner in freezing temperatures

A woman has admitted the manslaughter of a mobility scooter user who was found unresponsive in a Tesco car park.

Kimberley Ann Hawkins, 41, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to killing Neil Shadwick, 63, during a hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Shadwick died following an incident in the car park of a Tesco superstore on Stratford Road, Stroud, on 22 January last year.

He was found unresponsive in the car park shortly before 6am and without his mobility scooter, which he used as his mode of transport. He died at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital the same day.

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An investigation found Hawkins rode away on the mobility scooter, leaving its owner in sub-zero temperatures, police said.

Detective Inspector Adam Stacey said: “Hawkins’ sickening actions had tragically fatal consequences for a man whom she knew full well to be extremely vulnerable.

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“I welcome her guilty plea, which has meant that Mr Shadwick’s family at least have not had to endure a lengthy trial in court.

“Our thoughts remain with his family at this very difficult time.”

Sentencing is expected to take place in August.

Hawkins has been remanded in custody.

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