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Friends and family pay tribute to country’s first Covid-19 victim

By Carlena Knight

“Kind-hearted, friendly, upstanding citizen, family man, a genuine soul.” These were just a few of the words used to describe Garfield Joseph of Seatons, the country’s first Covid-19 victim.

 The 48-year-old died on Saturday, hours after being admitted to Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC). He was one of five Covid-19 samples to return positive results from the latest batch sent to Trinidad for testing this week and one of two local people now lost to the virus.

The second death, also a male, was announced on Tuesday night on Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s personal Facebook page, hours after the first was confirmed by Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas.

Joseph’s friends and family, fellow villagers and colleagues, took to Facebook yesterday to pay tribute.

His brother Melford Joseph, who posted an emotional message on his page, was among them.

“My brother was the sun that went unnoticed,” he wrote. “Sometimes life did not even know he existed. A shadow in the dark, silent and loud, a peace to the dead, he never had any enemies.

“He survived by taking care of himself by working at the airport from the time he left school until the time he died. Life only offered him the things he took from it and those things comforted him until he left them behind.

“He left a peaceful man, an upright citizen of Antigua and Barbuda; a legacy of a hardworking man who earned the respect of all in his family.

“Covid-19 stole all he had. Even though it is sad, the Lord will reward him. Journey well. RIP.”

Joseph’s friend Sadique Armstrong told Observer of his shock over Joseph’s untimely death.

“He was a very good friend of ours. He used to come on the corner and talk to us,” he said. “He was a very good guy and I’m very surprised that he died because he was a really good friend and my deepest condolences go out to his family, I hope they keep their heads up and stay focused on God.”

Joseph was employed as a plumber at VC Bird International Airport. According to Medical Director of Mount St John’s, Albert Duncan, he was in a critical condition by the time he arrived at the hospital and was brought into the emergency room after suffering from a cough and weakness for two days.

He was stabilised but, despite medical intervention, passed away in the intensive care unit.

Joseph is said to have suffered from diabetes, making him particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

Notes released by Cabinet yesterday revealed that both of the country’s Covid fatalities had underlying chronic illnesses.

And both are said to have attempted to “tough it out, even after it became evident that they were deathly ill”.

Cabinet urged men across the country to “shun their self-image of invincibility” and seek help promptly if they feel unwell.

To date, more than 50 people in Antigua and Barbuda have been tested for Covid-19. Three of the confirmed cases are healthcare workers – two doctors and a nurse – and 12 had a positive travel history.

Health officials say at least four of the 19 positive cases are associated with travel to Montserrat for St Patrick’s Day last month.

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