A woman protesting coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom was arrested at her home just hours after she posted a video showing empty hospital wards.
Debbie Hicks got the attention of authorities when she shared a video on Facebook that she purportedly filmed inside Gloucester Royal Hospital on Monday, calling it a “ghost town” as she wandered empty corridors and peeked in to rooms that were not, contrary to media reports, filled with COVID-19 patients.
“We’ve been put in Tier 3, for this? It’s a disgrace. I’ve seen less than 20 people. It’s completely dead in an empty hospital with wards shut down and the lights off,” Hicks said, calling out the “massive scam.”
“Where are all the people dying and where is the mutant virus? I can’t see the evidence and neither can the public watching. We’ve been robbed of Christmas for this?” the former Labour council candidate asked.
“Telling the truth is now illegal,” one Twitter user said in response to the video below:
Gloucester royal hospital. EMPTY. pic.twitter.com/pdJLCcka0G
— David (@DavidPh62343741) December 29, 2020
Gloucester Royal Hospital, where officials have claimed there are more than 200 COVID patients, countered that the wards are “extremely busy,” and accused Hicks of “intrusion” and upsetting patients, according to the Daily Mail.
“It’s appalling that our Gloucestershire Hospital Trust had to spend their precious time during this difficult pandemic defending themselves against films on social media that were wrongly claiming the hospital is empty,” local conservative MP Siobham Baillie said, condemning the activist’s actions.
On Tuesday, officers arrived at Hicks’ home where her husband filmed the exchange as they tried to handcuff her while she was only wearing her nightgown. The video clip showed Hicks chastising the officer for not letting her get dressed before hauling her off.
“What sort of society is this when you come into a woman’s house, outside her bedroom door and intimidate her with no clothes on?” she asked the officer.
Member of the Public ( Debbie Hicks ) handcuffed & took to police station for . ONLY . filming empty hospital that belongs to the Public . CLICK . pic.twitter.com/9hU1XrMAy9
— Patient Protect UK (@Patient_Protect) December 30, 2020
“Following a number of reports in relation to a video filmed by a member of the public at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and posted online, officers arrested a 46-year-old woman on suspicion of a public order offense,” a spokesman for the Gloucestershire Police said, according to Daily Mail.
“The woman has been bailed to return to police on January 21, with conditions that she cannot enter any NHS premises or the grounds of any such premises, unless in the case of an emergency or to attend a pre-arranged NHS appointment,” the spokesman added.
In a Facebook post following her arrest, Hicks recounted being “aggressively” arrested by the officer.
“This officer barged into my home, at xmas, and arrested me when I wasn’t dressed in front of my family. I was in my nightgown with nothing underneath when the thug of an officer tried to drag me off under arrest as he aggressively arrested me and twisted my hands behind my back in handcuffs,” she wrote on Facebook.
“They’re now claiming they have to watch my house as I am at risk because ‘my address and name has been released online,” she added. “77th brigade lies here folks- to try and stop me being active. The truth is very dangerous for the new world order.”
Hicks added: “Wake up world- how utterly Orwellian and nazi to go through this for sharing a video of an empty hospital -all because it was shared over 80k times. They can’t have the truth out there, can they?”
An active critic of the coronavirus lockdown measures, Hicks was arrested last month after participating in a Freedom Rally in Stroud. The Daily Mail noted that she is a friend of the brother of ex-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
A hospital spokesman contended that, despite the video footage, the facility is busy.
“Our hospitals are and remain extremely busy and colleagues at both our hospitals have been working hard throughout the festive period to care for our patients,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Contrary to what you may have seen through ‘secret filming’ on Facebook, our hospitals are and remain extremely busy,” the spokesman continued.
“We are currently caring for more than 200 patients with COVID-19, including many who require treatment in our critical care departments and a further 500+ non-COVID patients,” the hospital spokesman added. “Filming patients who are waiting in A&E without their consent is both intrusive and upsetting as maintaining patient confidentiality is key to our hospitals being a safe space for you to receive the care you need.”
The conflicting stories sparked much debate on Twitter:
It is really depressing and alarming to see and hear people sharing lies about empty hospitals. Debbie Hicks filmed an outpatients ward and shared it to state that it is all a hoax. Its so so offensive to all those working on those wards and helping people. https://t.co/FfML6GxHTC
— carrie creamer (@carrie_creamer) December 31, 2020
IMPORTANT: Do not be taken in by reports / videos of empty hospital beds claiming the NHS crisis is being exaggerated. Of course there are empty wards! Covid wards and ICUs are OVERFLOWING so all available staff and resources from OTHER wards have been diverted there. 1/4
— Dr Emily Grossman (@DrEmilyGrossman) December 31, 2020
Debbie Hicks: arrested for doing the job of the MSN. https://t.co/7uMVfnKxTr
— Liz George 😀 (@lillibibitus) December 30, 2020
Sky News tonight: a talking head in the studio explained that the hospitals cannot cope and that numbers of COVID patients are so high that they cannot all be admitted. No pictures. Why can’t they take a camera into a hospital to show us???
— Euan Macpherson (@EuanMacpherson) December 29, 2020
It is so shocking what is actually going on. We need more people like Debbie Hicks and more people willing to stand up for her.
— Adelcor2244 (@adelcor2244) December 30, 2020
I cannot think of anything more sinister than Gestapo coming for you at home and arresting you for filming a few empty corridors in a public hospital.
— Ritasha Manttrin (@rusticrobin) December 31, 2020