A long distance lorry driver who tested positive for Covid described the harrowing experience of having to live in his cab on the street because there was nowhere for him to go.
John Hanna, from Northern Ireland – known to all his friends as “Sticks” – was on a two-week job transporting chicken fat to a dog food factory in Boulogne, France, when he took a Covid test at Burtonwood services on the M62 on Tuesday afternoon.
The test came back positive and he was told he must immediately self-isolate for 10 days – even though he was far from home and the only roof over his head was the lorry he drove.
It was the start of a nightmare three days in which dad-of-three John, 42, had to park up at a variety of locations with no toilet facilities while he tried to find somewhere to spend his period of self-isolation.
They included a garbage-strewn back street where “rats as big as cats” were running up the wheels of his truck and gnawing at the wiring.
John said: “When I tested positive at Burtonwood, I asked the army guys who were there ‘what happens now?’ They put their hands up and said, ‘we don’t know’.”
At first John tried a parking area in Bootle he knew about, but he was not allowed to stay by the firm because of his condition and the risk to staff.
Next stop was Brunswick Place off Regent Road, an industrial area strewn with flytipped rubbish and vermin.
John said: “I was sitting in the cab there for 14 to 15 hours. I had nowhere else to go. The rats were as big as cats. They were climbing up the wheels of the lorry, getting into the chassis and eating the wiring.
“I was self-isolating in a lorry with no toilets and no washing facilities. I could go outside to take a pee but for anything else I just had to hold on.”
Next up was another 16 hours spent at a nearby lorry park used by an Irish Sea freight ferry service.
After John posted about his predicament on social media, offers of help came flooding in and kind-hearted people began bringing him food supplies.
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His case even escalated to his local member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who got in touch with the Liverpool Mayor’s Office and local MPs to try and help John out of his predicament.
Eventually he was directed to return to Burtonwood services by the Road Haulage Association, where he spent another five hours.
After more frantic efforts on his behalf, accommodation was finally found for him last night (Thursday).
A crew from North West Ambulance Service collected John from the services car park and took him to the self-catering Dream Apartments in Tithebarn Street in the city centre, to continue his period of self-isolation.
Although ill with Covid symptoms, John said he was managing with the help of antibiotics which his doctor had prescribed him.
He said: “It’s been a nightmare. But I’m glad if it means other drivers will not have to go through what I went through, and they’ll test everybody before they leave Northern Ireland.
“How can someone be expected to sit in their cab for 10 days if they have to self-isolate, with no washing or toilet facilities?
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“The social media [response] blew my mind. It really is humbling and my faith in humanity has been restored.”
When the all-clear is hopefully given next week, John is looking forward to returning to his family in the village of Waringstown, Co Armagh – wife Audreyann, 42, and three children Benjamin, 20, Yvonne, 17, and Jason, six.