Two NHS nurses, both mothers of three, have died after contracting the novel coronavirus.
Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old nurse at Walsall Manor Hospital, and Aimee O'Rourke, a 38-year-old who worked at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, both died in the last 24 hours.
Nasreen had joined the hospital back in 2003 as a support services assistant in the housekeeping department and became a nurse last April.
Her best friend, Rubi Aktar, confirmed her death in a touching tribute on Facebook. Aktar wrote: "She was the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet, she went above and beyond for everyone she met.
"I’m so grateful that I had the honour to call her my best friend, she saw me at my best and my worst and accepted my every flaw.
"I am so broken that words can’t explain."
A colleague at Walsall Manor Hospital also paid tribute, tweeting: "Very sad news RIP Areema Nasreen, one of our amazing staff nurses."
According to the Birmingham Mail, Nasreen started to show symptoms of the virus on March 12. Her sister Kazeema told the paper that Nasreen had always wanted to be a nurse after caring for their grandmother.
Nasreen tested positive for the virus on March 20 and later ended up requiring ventilation. Her family told Sky News that she had been on annual leave at the time and could have caught the virus from anywhere. They also said the nurse had no underlying health issues.
Last week, Kazeema thanked the hospital for their care and urged people to take the virus seriously.
She said: "My sister who is an amazing nurse on the front line and who always helps so many has now caught this virus.
"She is critically ill in ICU, on a ventilator and fighting for her life, I want everyone to know how dangerous this is. My sister is only 36 and is normally fit and healthy.
"People are not taking this seriously enough. She is young — it is not just the elderly who are at risk."
Nasreen's final tweet before she contracted the coronavirus was her celebration of 17 years working for the NHS.
In a statement on Friday, Richard Beeken, chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, offered condolences to Nasreen's family and loved ones, describing her as a “professional, passionate nurse who started at the trust as a housekeeper in 2003 before working hard to train to gain her nursing qualification in January 2019”.
He continued: “Her vocation in nursing was clear for all to see and she always said that she was so blessed to have the role of a nurse which she absolutely loved because she wanted to feel like 'she could want to make a difference’ — and you did, Areema, you will be very sadly missed.”
Aimee O'Rourke was described on Facebook by her friend Leah Sansom as "one in a million".
The nurse, who had gained a degree in nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University, was also mourned by her daughter Megan Murphy, who wrote on Facebook: "I have no words mummy. Nothing I say could ever explain the feeling I’m feeling right now!!! I cannot wait to hold your hand again when we meet on the other side. ... We will always be your 3 baby girls."
A GoFundMe page for O'Rourke reads: "Aimee caught the Covid-19 virus and sadly lost her fight to Coronavirus."
"Please give as much as you can to help Aimee's family, just as Aimee gave her life to make sure other people survived this virus."
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust confirmed O'Rourke died on Thursday.
In the statement, the hospital said that when O'Rourke came into hospital with coronavirus symptoms, she had asked for her ward manager, Julie Gammon, and her colleague to sit with her in the emergency department.
Gammon said: “It was an honour to be able to be with her and to provide some comfort and I am so glad that I was able to do so.”
Gammon said their team was devastated by her death and added: “She was such a kind and caring nurse, and she had a really special relationship with her patients and colleagues.
“Nursing was something she had always wanted to do, although she came to it relatively late after raising her girls.
Gammon said O'Rourke had taken a break to look after her mum when she was diagnosed with cancer and was "determined to return and to make her mum proud".
The chief executive of East Kent Hospitals, Susan Acott, also paid tribute, saying, “Aimee was hardworking, dedicated, and hugely popular with staff and patients alike. She gave her all to care for our patients, and her commitment was evident for all to see."
At the government's daily media briefing, chief nursing officer Ruth May honored O'Rourke and Nasreen.
"I want to recognise that today we've had the very sad news of the loss of two of my colleagues," she said. "We have lost today Aimee O'Rourke and Areema Nasreen, two registered nurses working to protect our public and they sadly have died.
"My sincere condolences to their families, their friends, and their colleagues because they were one of us. They were one of my profession, of the NHS family. I worry there's going to be more, and I want to honour them today and recognise their service."
May urged the British public to continue social distancing this weekend and remember Nasreen and O'Rourke as they do so.
"Please stay at home for them," she said.