It has been a long 14 weeks for Marion Parker.

The 74-year-old Belcoo resident was one of the thousands of people in Northern Ireland to receive a letter advising them to shield as she was at higher risk from Covid-19 due to a minor chest condition.

However, it was somewhat ironic circumstances surrounding it all as Marion was in South Africa at the start of the outbreak visiting her daughter, and wanted to get back home to the rest of her family again.

“Mine has been longer than a lot of others because I was in South Africa when all this kicked off and got into a panic,” Marion recalled. “We really didn’t know what it was like, we didn’t really know what was going on at home.

“There was no coverage about the UK and Ireland and then their President announced people were going to have to be restricted and then we started looking to see what was going on.”

It took her four days to get a flight home and then when she got home, she went into self isolation.

“Because I had been abroad and had two long haul flights and I was just coming out of that with one day to go when I got the letter from the doctor to shield for 12 weeks.”

“I had put myself into quarantine because on an aeroplane you don’t know who you are sitting next to and it was just a precaution to protect all my family that I desperately wanted to come home to. I went through all that to come home and then I wasn’t allowed to see them when I got back here.”

Usually very active and busy, Marion, a retired nurse, said it was a very lonely time. “It’s very lonely when you live on your own and not allowed to go out of your house or garden area.

“At the beginning I just walked round the garden and I just kept increasing the laps and I felt really stupid. You feel really daft walking around your own garden but that was the only way I could get any exercise you see.”

In the first three weeks of shielding, Marion and her neighbour Angie made face masks for the local community, and they made over 200 between them.

Marion pays huge tribute to Angie and her husband Ger who have been a great help throughout the shielding bringing her shopping to her, leaving meals at her door and any other help that was needed. Marion is glad they can now chat face to face again and visit each other’s gardens.

She also took up painting projects around her house and being a crafter as well was able to keep herself generally busy.

Marion admits the hardest part of the restrictions is not being able to see her grandchildren.

“The worst thing was coming home and not being able to see anybody.

“I can’t see my grandkids and I’m missing them more than anything.”

With confirmation from her doctor that she is able to venture outside once more, Marion has started walking again and visiting her aunts, 88 and 90 years old respectively, along the way but she is still cautious about possibly catching the virus.

“Once I got my letter, I go out every day walking. I still don’t go into shops. I still don’t go into other houses and nobody comes into mine. I went into Enniskillen and drove round and looked at it and drove home again.”

Marion knows that she is still vulnerable to the virus but if she follows the guidelines Covid-19 will not affect her.

“Those who were in ordinary isolation can move around a lot more but I’m also shielding because of my chest condition. Its only been lifted in so much as I can go out for exercise,” she added.