Father, daughter die of virus hours apart
A frontline Heathrow immigration officer and his daughter died from coronavirus 24 hours apart.
Terminal 3 worker Sudhir Sharma, 61, passed away on Wednesday and pharmacist Pooja, 33, the following day.
Officials do not believe Sudhir contracted COVID-19 on duty as he last worked on January 7, making it more likely he picked up the virus elsewhere.
"It's an absolute tragedy. He was a lovely, lovely man. Every immigration officer is talking about it," sources told The Sun.
"There are concerns about his widow being unable to attend the funeral because of the isolation issues. It's just so awful."
Sudhir, from Hounslow in West London, is thought to have had underlying health problems in recent years, forcing him to miss periods at work.
But friends said he had recently returned to his frontline role.
Pooja, who worked at Eastbourne District General Hospital in East Sussex, is believed to have spent three days receiving medical care before the virus claimed her life.
It was not clear last night if the father and daughter had been in close contact with each other before their deaths.
Nick Jariwalla, director of Border Force at Heathrow, last night said: "Sudhir was a very well-respected, kind and experienced officer. He will be greatly missed by everyone."
"Really sorry to hear that one of our fellow pharmacists and a friend of mine since university, Pooja, and her father have passed away," a friend of Pooja posted on social media.
"May their souls rest in peace. Sending my heartiest condolences, prayers and love to their family."
"Please, please, please inform family and friends to take this very seriously and to self-isolate, socially distance themselves as much as possible, for their families if not for themselves."
Airport employees have told The Sun that they had major fears over protection offered to UK Immigration and visa staff working at Heathrow and other ports of entry.
"The first signs of coronavirus came in December and we were still taking flights in from Wuhan, where the pandemic began," one Heathrow worker said.
"They did do some screening of passengers before those routes were finally cancelled, but flights from China generally continued.
"And even when those were restricted, we had hundreds of people flying in on Chinese passports from Hong Kong. They simply bypassed the block.
"We were still accepting flights from northern Italy until six weeks ago or so. And there are still flights coming in from Madrid and all over the US.
"When they arrive, all we are given is some hand gel and gloves. No face masks, no screens.
"Even check-out staff at Morrisons supermarkets have those now. It's madness."
The source added: "We had a passenger a few days ago, a Serbian who flew in from the US to see his girlfriend in the UK.
"He was denied entry but the US refused to take him back, so he's now on immigration bail here."
The worker also revealed that two colleagues arrived for work at Terminal 3 a few days ago wearing their own face masks - only to be ordered to take them off.
"We have immigration entry clearance officers still clearing visit visas for people abroad to come to the UK in the middle of this crisis. Why?," they added.
"Citizens of the USA, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea can all sweep through the E-gate systems here without dealing with an immigration officer.
"Middle management are pretty supportive but the directors and assistant directors, working from home or in a cocooned office, have done very little to help.
"There are probably 300 staff at each terminal. They should have been shut down weeks ago."
When asked about immigration employees' lack of personal protective equipment, a Home Office spokeswoman told The Sun: "The safety of the public and our staff is of the utmost importance.
"In line with Public Health England guidance, all staff have protective clothing and equipment available, including
masks and disposable gloves, for when they are in close contact with anyone displaying symptoms."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission
Originally published as Father, daughter die of virus hours apart