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Image / Editorial

Claire Byrne’s broadcast from her shed has sparked debate among viewers

by Grace McGettigan
24th Mar 2020

Claire Byrne hosted her usual current affairs programme from her garden shed as she recovers from Covid-19, but viewers aren’t sure whether or not that was the right thing to do

RTÉ presenter Claire Byrne confirmed on Monday that she is recovering from Covid-19, yet she continued to broadcast her regular current affairs program, Claire Byrne Live, from her shed. Viewers had mixed feelings about whether or not that was a good decision.

The mother-of-three opened the show with a description of her experience of Covid-19, adding that she’s been in isolation for a week. Her symptoms started as a cold, she explained, and then she felt it develop into “chest infection territory”. Unlike the majority of confirmed Covid-19 cases, Claire did not have a fever.

Claire Byrne’s experience of Covid-19

“I checked my temperature three times a day, every day, and there was never a spike in it,” she said. “At that point, I thought this is a head cold – maybe a chest infection – and no more.”

Her GP referred her for a test anyway, and so she went to a previously closed HSE facility that had been reopened as a test centre. Here she was asked a number of questions about where she had been, before having swabs taken from the inside of her cheeks and nose.

Claire went on to praise the professionalism and calmness of the nurses at the test centre, saying they put her at ease. “They took me through the process with a smile,” she added, “they were very warm”.

Symptoms worsen 

However, after leaving the test centre, Claire said her symptoms got a little bit worse. “The cough that I had became more engrained. It was very hard to get rid of it or to deal with it. And then I had the aching limbs,” she said, “and tiredness, real fatigue. And I have three children here so you can’t really succumb to that when you’re in that position.

“The worst thing is, for three consecutive nights I was in bed with that hacking cough, and I began to notice that I was becoming breathless and I worried about that. It was all in the upper respiratory area, it wasn’t down in my chest. I was quite congested. But I was definitely getting to the point where I was struggling for breath.

“It didn’t get so severe that I needed to call an ambulance,” she said, “but I know for some people that would be very distressing. For me, it wasn’t that bad but it was definitely an issue.”

Guilt and worry

Claire went on to say that, after the shock diagnosis came, she went into guilt mode. “How many people have I given this too?” she asked herself. “That was my big concern. Obviously I had been self-isolating for quite some time and following the guidelines, but there’s always at the back of your mind: before I had these symptoms, was I giving this condition to other people? And who were those people?

“I felt guilty, I felt shocked and I felt worried.” After that, she sat down and made a contact list of everyone she’d been in close proximity to. Soon after, she received a phone call from the contact tracing team at the army who requested a list of everyone she’d been in touch with since her first symptom appeared, as well as their phone numbers.

Viewers react to the shed broadcast

All the while describing her symptoms, Claire Byrne was sitting in her garden shed. Viewers of the show aren’t sure whether the broadcast was a good idea, with some saying she should have taken the evening off to rest.

Others added that, by continuing with her usual job, she is giving people the impression that Covid-19 isn’t that bad (adding how this isn’t helpful when so many people in Ireland are already ignoring social distancing advice).

“Seriously, Claire Byrne’s attempt to educate people on the virus tonight just reinforced the idea that’s it’s not that bad! Really wreckless from RTÉ,” one viewer said. “I hope Claire is better soon but she looked great… Idiots will think it’s no worse than a cold.”

Another said, “Why are national broadcasters not interviewing compromised people in acute medical care struggling to fight for oxygen with pneumonia and on multiple medications? Instead, we are listening to people with no symptoms and no suffering. Wrong message to the complacent public.”

However, many other viewers disagreed, saying Claire Byrne is the epitome of dignity and professionalism, adding that her broadcast from the shed was “remarkable” given the circumstances.

“Wishing Claire a full and speedy recovery,” one said. “Thank you, Claire, for your dignity and professionalism. Take care. Stay safe.”

Another viewer tweeted, “I have always admired Claire Byrne, but her professionalism now as she informs the nation about her own personal experience with COVID-19 is just remarkable.”

Somebody else added, “Claire Byrne taking ‘working from home’ to a whole new level, broadcasting live from her shed on #cblive. Hope she gets well soon.”

Feature photo: Claire Byrne Live, RTÉ