John Irvine, a 50-year-old NHS Lothian bank nurse, was expecting to spend the festive period in a quarantine hotel for two weeks after helping with Malawi’s Covid response.
However, with Malawi no longer on the red travel list for the UK, the critical care nurse will now be able to enjoy quality time with his loved ones in Linlithgow when he flies home on Thursday – providing he tests negative for Covid.
Speaking about not having to quarantine, John said: “It’s great news I will be able to enjoy a normal Christmas with my family, although it means I’ll now need to make a mad dash to the shops to buy some presents.
“My parents have the whole family round and it’s the only time we all get together.”
John, who is a former soldier, has been training intensive care and A & E medics on how to save critically ill patients on a deployment with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office funded UK Emergency Medical Team (EMT).
He had been due to return from his eight-week deployment with the UK-EMT on December 9, however, he extended his stay to support the opening of a maternity war for pregnant women with Covid.
John added: “I knew my decision to stay on would mean sacrificing Christmas but the training we have been delivering will save lives.”
He has been based at Kamuzu Hospital, Lilongwe and has also delivered training in the northern districts of Rhumpi and Chitipa.
John, predominantly based at the Royal Infirmary, said: “I’ve been working alongside Malawian nurses and mentoring them and offering suggestions of different approaches to patient care based on the experience we’ve gained combating Covid in the UK.
"We can offer practical advice."
In 1997, John quit the army and spent two years cycling 17,000 miles around the world through 27 countries.
John said: “I think it was my thirst for adventure that made me sign up for to the frontline health charity UK-Med, which provides doctors and nurses for the UK-EMT.
“I started my nursing training in 2005 and it was always in the back of my mind that I would want to use my nursing to help people abroad.
“My mum’s always been a bit anxious about my travels, especially when news broke of the new omicron variant, but I was not too worried, and my dad is like ‘I’m really proud of you’.
“I find this work really rewarding so even if I had missed Christmas with my family it’s a sacrifice worth making because I feel like I’m making a positive impact.”
Vicky Ford, minister for Africa said: “The UK Government is proud that brave Scottish medics like John Irvine are playing a crucial role in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The UK Medical Emergency Team pools world-leading expertise from across Britain and has been making a real difference helping to strengthen Malawi’s ability to respond to Covid-19.
“Viruses do not respect borders and the world cannot beat Covid and stop new variant emerging unless we work together to save lives.”