Nurse who battled coronavirus in intensive care alongside PM dies

Victoria Bell
·3-min read
Loving: Larni Zuniga, 54, passed away after battling the disease at London's St Thomas' Hospital on Friday.
Loving: Larni Zuniga, 54, passed away after battling COVID-19 at London's St Thomas' Hospital on Friday. (GoFundMe)

An NHS nurse who fought for his life in the same intensive care ward as Boris Johnson has died from coronavirus, says a close friend who’s set up a fundraiser to raise money for his funeral.

“Loving and caring” Larni Zuniga, 54, died after battling the disease at St Thomas' Hospital in London on Friday.

Zuniga, a married father originally from the Philippines, worked his way up to a senior nurse position at a care home in Surrey before he was stricken with the virus.

He had worked in the UK for 12 years and had not seen his family for five years.

In a cruel twist of fate, Zuniga’s wife Edith was due to finally join him in the UK in June, but his sickness stopped him from carrying out the application, the GoFundMe page said.

Arnold Barrientos, who organised the fundraiser, described Zuniga as “a real brother” and said they met in nursing college in Perpetual Help College in Manila in 1989.

Zuniga was a Christian and regular attendee at the Jesus Is Lord Church in Oxford, which he travelled two hours to get to every Sunday.

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Zuniga “died unexpectedly where no information about his current finances, insurances and other pertinent details can be accessed by anyone”, Barrientos wrote, because Zuniga did not have the chance to entrust those details to anybody.

“His family, the Church and I therefore appeal to everyone's benevolence to help raise a fund for this hero, a front liner who I believe deserves to be honoured with a decent funeral at least, and for something to help his wife Edith to carry on with life now that Larni cannot send her financial support anymore,” Barrientos wrote.

The announcement brings the total number of UK registered nurse and midwife deaths reported during the pandemic to 35, reports the Nursing Times.

Zuniga's death follows weeks of concerns that care home workers have not been given enough personal protective equipment to stop the spread of infection, despite homes going into lockdown to protect residents.

Tributes have been paid to Zuniga, who "touched the lives of the people around him".

Read more: Care home coronavirus deaths are being 'airbrushed out of official figures'

His cousin, who is also a nurse, said: "Larni was a true professional, who touched the lives of many.

"He made a tremendous difference to a lot of people's lives and he was highly respected by patients and colleagues alike."

The page has raised £8,755 of its £10,000 target.

More than 20,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died in hospitals, but the true death toll from the disease is much higher as this figures does not include deaths in care homes and the community.

Last week, care bosses called for doctors and nurses to be deployed to fight coronavirus in care homes, as the largest operators announced sharp rises in their death tolls.

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