'My mum, dad and brother died within seven days after catching Covid at a family dinner'

  • Francis Goncalves speaking to ITV News about the death of his brother Shaul

A man has been left broken after three members of his family died within one week of each other after they tested positive for coronavirus.

Francis Goncalves, who lives in Cardiff, said his brother, Shaul, 40, father, Basil, 73, and mother Charmagne, 65, all started to feel unwell on the weekend of July 10, a few days after having a meal together. Within two weeks of their symptoms starting, they had all died.

Francis said his family, who were in Portugal when they died, did not get their coronavirus vaccines because they had been scared by anti-vaccination "misinformation".

He hopes sharing his story will save lives by encouraging others to have their jabs.

Describing the days leading up to their deaths, Francis said, "Dad went to hospital on 6 July for kidney stones, we think he picked Covid up there.

"On 8 July , my parents had dinner at my brother's apartment he shares with his girlfriend and they started to feel very ill that weekend.

"On the Monday, my brother's girlfriend said Shaul could feel something was wrong. He said he'd never felt anything like it, that he felt like he was filled with weight and that he was tired. He decided to get a test for Covid and they tested positive.

"My parents were really ill at the time as well. They went to hospital and I had a text from my father that afternoon saying they've been admitted into the hospital because they have both tested positive. That was on July 12."

Francis said his family, who were in Portugal, did not get their coronavirus vaccines

With Francis being so far away in Cardiff, he said it became difficult to get hold of his parents.

A few days later, he discovered his dad, who had underlying health issues, had been moved to the intensive care unit.

From that point on each family member started to deteriorate, so Francis made plans to fly over to be with them in Portugal.

He said: "I spoke to my brother every day and we couldn't get hold of my father.

"It was very difficult for me to get hold of him in a country I couldn't speak the language.

"My brother was finding it frustrating to get in touch with my parents as well, but he managed to get through to my mother on the Wednesday, which was when my father was put into an induced coma and moved to ICU.

Francis said his brother than began to deteriorate and he could tell "there was definitely something wrong with him".

On Wednesday, July 14 he discovered his dad - who had underlying health issues - had been moved to the intensive care unit (ICU).

"On the Saturday (July 17) I had a message at 8.08pm to say Shaul had been rushed off to hospital in an ambulance," he said.

"I spoke to his girlfriend and she was really worried. Then, at about 1am I received a call from her saying she had been told he had passed away that evening."

Francis said his brother was the "healthiest person" he knew and believes the vaccine would have saved his life, adding: "If he wasn't working out in the gym or running, he was going on walks. He hadn't drunk in 15 years and ate a whole foods plant-based diet."

With his brother being Francis' only means of contacting his parents, Francis had to get hold of a law firm in Portugal to help him out. The firm contacted the hospital on his behalf and passed on his contact details.

Although, on Tuesday July 20, the hospital called Francis to say his father had also died.

Francis' father Basil died on 20 July

The next day, Francis finally managed to get a flight to Portugal to see his mother and to make arrangements for his dad and brother.

When he arrived, he discovered his mother - who had a number of underlying health issues, including an autoimmune disease - was struggling to cope with the virus.

"They allowed me to go and see her which was already a sign that things weren't going well and I had to dress up in full PPE", he said.

"Then on the Saturday, JuIy 24, I received a phone call from the doctor saying they were in a situation where they had tried everything and the next couple of hours would be critical. Later that evening, I received a call to say she had passed away."

He said his family was "small and close"

A week later, on Sunday August 1, all three members of the family were buried next to each other at a cemetery in Lisbon called Sao Joao, where a section is dedicated to covid-related deaths.

Francis said: "They said the entire time during Covid they'd never had three bodies brought in together from the same family."

Francis described his experience as "incredibly painful."

He said his family was "small and close" but that his mum, dad and brother had all positively impacted the lives of many others around them.

Francis said he grew up in South Africa and that his brother helped the family to move to Cardiff in 2015 to escape violence in the region. A year later, his parents and brother moved to Portugal, where his father was originally from.

Francis, who returned home from Portugal on Friday, August 6, said his experience had been incredibly painful.

Speaking about his family, he said: "My father gave everything. He would wear broken shoes so we could have the best they could get. I found a bible he carried around with him when I was in Lisbon and I opened it up and saw a bookmark and it was a picture of my mum when she was in her 20s.

"I could see that he loved her and she loved him. He never knew his father, but he always tried to be something more. My mother was a mother hen and she'd do anything for us.

"My brother was my best friend. He always looked out for the best interests of people around him and he wanted to teach people.

Though talking about his experience is extremely tough he said, Francis hopes that sharing the painful experience might encourage others to get the coronavirus vaccine if they have so far been too afraid to get it like his family.

"They got caught up in a lot of the anti-vaccination propaganda that's going around," Francis said.

"It preys on people who are afraid and they fall into the trap. The message I want to get out is why would the government want to hurt you by giving you a vaccine? What is the purpose behind it? I've spoken to so many people who are terrified of the vaccine and it costs lives."