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The Hollyoaks actress, who has faced criticism for her comments on the Covid restrictions, said she and her sister visited her “beloved” father Vin during the first lockdown, realising he was struggling with isolation. They took care to stay in the garden and not enter his home but this was still in breach of regulations.
Following his death, Denise found heartbreaking poems he had penned, revealing the toll that isolation had taken.
Denise, 63, said: “My sister and I made the decision there is no way we weren’t going to be seeing Dad during lockdown.
“We weren’t going to be waving through a window. We were very careful but I knew, as someone who has suffered from major depressive disorder since I was 32, we needed to see Dad.”
Her father made it through the first lockdown, only to be taken seriously ill this year.
He died after having major surgery and battling pneumonia as well as an existing lung condition, pulmonary fibrosis.
Denise said it was only while going through his things after he had died that she appreciated how hard the lockdown isolation had hit him.
“We found these poems, a couple of poems that he’d written about lockdown. And he never showed us them ‑ he didn’t write poetry or anything.
“But we saw these poems that he had written about how it spoiled things. And was it never going to come back, you know, human contact, human connection and fundamental rights of seeing people?
“It was very sad to read, because he obviously had these thoughts that he didn’t really talk about very much.”
Denise vowed that whatever happens with rules over the coming weeks, she will spend this Christmas with her loved ones.
“I will be with my family or I will be in jail,” she said.
Her father Vin, a businessman and actor, became ill last Christmas with a gallbladder problem and was hospitalised.
Denise said the visiting ban made it difficult for her and her younger sister Debbie to oversee his care.
After his discharge, Denise “loved him back to health” at her Cheshire home and he then returned to County Durham, where he had lived for 50 years.
However, his health deteriorated and in March he underwent a gallbladder operation. After this he developed sepsis and had an emergency operation.
Vin developed pneumonia and was put on end-of-life care. “They allowed us and our extended family to visit. My sister and I ate and slept in the ward for six days with my dad.”
Vin died in September, leaving her “broken-hearted”. She said that they were given access for the final days, when Vin received wonderful care, and were with him when he died.
Denise, an ambassador for the mental health charity SANE and who is double vaxxed, said she is speaking out because she doesn’t want others to suffer the “arbitrary, hypocritical Covid rules”.
“The restrictions are impacting us all. There are many other conditions that are not Covid, and the Covid measures are affecting those, as well as our anxiety.
“Lockdown is all right for people like me in houses with gardens. Imagine being in a tower block in the middle of Newcastle with three children, no garden and a wife or husband who drinks too much and you hear the word ‘lockdown’?
“It’s got to stop. And now parties and social events have been cancelled. What about those thousands of people who have lost livelihoods as a result? Jobs they were dependent on to feed their families this Christmas?”
Denise has not suffered in her career but others in her industry have. “There are actors I know who got other jobs, like in supermarkets, and when they got an audition they couldn’t go because they were working, and if they did they would lose their jobs.
“Critics say your job is not that important but I say it is, as it is not just actors but thousands of others in the entertainment industry who have to feed their families. How do you think you have got through these past two years? By television, Netflix, Sky films. That’s because of the entertainment industry.”
Denise believes the debate over Covid measures has shifted from health to politics.
“For someone Left-leaning all my life it’s been very difficult for me, because people on the Left have chosen to hate this Government yet are happy to do every single thing they say at the drop of a hat.
“And those people on the other side are resisting more.
“I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m not anti-vax or anti-mask. I ask questions. I am not frightened of speaking out. I don’t think this is an emergency anymore. How long does it go on? How long are we wearing masks? Are we wearing them forever?”
Denise said she is speaking out in order to protect mental health.
“We’re in a global mental health pandemic and nothing is being done. I talk to nurses, doctors and paramedics who see this.
“It’s not right that the restrictions are making us live in a constant state of fear and anxiety for a virus which has an infection to fatality rate similar to influenza.
“I lost my father to pneumonia. There are many, many other conditions that can be deadly.
“People only care about coronavirus deaths.”
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