A son has described how he lost his “healthy and active” dad within just nine days after he contracted coronavirus.

James Fitzgerald lived in sheltered accommodation in Knotty Ash and the 79-year-old was described as a sociable and hugely-loved man who played poker twice a week, went to the casino and enjoyed going out to sing karaoke.

But the dad-of-six suddenly became unwell with Covid-19 during the first lockdown last April, and just over a week later he tragically died.

His son Mick today bravely detailed how he and his siblings had to cope as their dad gradually slipped away due to the virus.

In his last days, James remained lucid and was perhaps unaware of how serious his health had become, as his children living in Merseyside took turns to pay emotional final trips to see him in the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

And the Fitzgerald family are part of a growing national campaign group calling for an independent enquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Mick told the ECHO: “Dad had an active social life, he had a few health issues, but nothing out of the norm.

“On April 8, dad called me panicking as he had a cough, and thought he had Covid, and by the 14th when he was really unwell, he went to hospital.

“He’d speak to us on the phone and then it was confirmed he had the virus, and sepsis and pneumonia.

James Fitzgerald, 79, a much-loved dad-of-six who died with Covid-19
(Image: Mike Fitzgerald)

“Dad needed oxygen and stepped-up level of care and it was heartbreaking to go in and see him.

“My brother Face Timed the family when he went in and we all told dad we were rooting for him and that was one his last conversations with the family, gasping for breath.

“I don’t think he thought he was going to die – we were all telling him how much we loved him.

“The next day he took a bad turn, it was very strange to see him so unwell, but still lucid, I was allowed to stay a few hours with him, and I fed him his breakfast, but then had to come home.

“It was horrendous, a living nightmare.

“He died on April 17, 2020.”

The NHS worker added: “We don’t know where he got Covid from, he’s on the top floor of the accommodation, it could have been when he took the bins out, or used the lift.

“But we don’t know, that’s just the cruelty of the pandemic.

“It’s especially heartbreaking as he was so healthy.”

The Fitzgerald family are part of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which now represents more than 2,500 people who have repeatedly asked for a meeting for Boris Johnson.

So far, that has been denied six times, which the collective has described as “hurtful and pretty disgraceful,” as they push for a judge-led independent coronavirus inquiry.

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James was also a granddad-of-eight who had four great-grandchildren.

Mike, 40, from Old Swan added: “We are angry about what happened.

“There needs to be a public enquiry, people were told to stay at home, but everything was done too late, lessons need to be learnt.

“In the third wave, in January, last month, the daily death tolls reached 1,500, it was insurmountable.

“I know people who have been taken in their 60s and 70s, ahead of their time, and those who have lost multiple family members.

“It’s unacceptable that people have been allowed to become infected in the way they did.

James Fitzgerald, 79, a much-loved dad-of-six who died with Covid-19. Here with son, Mike.
(Image: Mike Fitzgerald)

“As an island nation, we didn’t do lockdown properly, what happened in our care homes was a national disgrace, and people’s lives were cut 20 years shorter than they should have been.

“For there to have been more than 120,000 deaths in this country is absolutely shocking.

“We want people to be held accountable for their actions and inaction.

“We don’t want those who died to be forgotten about and become just statistics.”

An 80th birthday celebration had previously been planned for James with more than 100 people expected to attend, but last November, it was instead a very different occasion.

Last July, Boris Johnson did commit to an “independent inquiry” into the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister said it was “not the right time” for an investigation but there would “certainly” be one “in the future” so lessons could be learned.

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