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Was Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill an early victim of COVID-19?

Andy Gill
Andy Gill (Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, influential Gang Of Four guitarist Andy Gill died at the age of 64.

It was reported that he had developed a “respiratory illness” after wrapping up an Asian tour with the band in late November 2019. Gill was admitted to hospital in January and died on February 1, with the cause of death recorded as pneumonia and multi-organ failure.

Now Gill’s partner, the author and activist Catherine Mayer, believes that he might have actually died from COVID-19.

In a lengthy, heartfelt piece of her website, Mayer writes that she observed changes in Gill that are now associated with those hardest hit by coronavirus, namely “low oxygen, lethargy and diminished appetite,” although Gill had assumed the colder weather had exacerbated his sarcoidosis – an interstitial lung disease.

When he was admitted to hospital, Gill was asked by doctors if he’d travelled to Wuhan, but Mayer says: “Andy thought it unlikely he had come into contact with it: Gang Of Four’s tour had taken the band only to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.”

The virus was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on December 31, 2019, and declared a novel coronavirus outbreak on January 30, but Mayer says: “As images and descriptions of COVID-19 fatalities appeared to me not as news bulletins but agonising memories, I assumed the timing of Andy’s death to be a cruel coincidence. 

“The timelines couldn’t be reconciled with official information on the spread of the disease, in China or to Europe.”

I will always know this – that we must do what it takes, whatever it takes, to prevent such deaths.

Catherine Mayer

However, recent reports that authorities in France had discovered the virus in a patient in Paris in December, prompted Mayer to ask Gill’s specialist: “Do you think that there’s a possibility that Andy was an early victim of COVID-19? I cannot shake that suspicion.” 

Mayer says she was “winded” by the answer, with the specialist telling her: “Your question is one that I asked myself more than six weeks ago. It seemed to me at the time of Andy’s illness that we had not fully understood why he deteriorated as he did.

“Once we learned more about COVID-19, I thought there was a real possibility that Andy had been infected by SARS-COV-2. I discussed this with colleagues in early March. I thought we should explore this further once we had the tools to answer the question such as reliable antibody tests. I did not want to contact you until and if I had a definite answer.”

Mayer says that Gill’s Gang Of Four bandmates reported no coronavirus symptoms, but their 26-year-old tour manager hooked up with another band in the UK in early December and was later transferred to hospital, where he remained for eight days suffering severe “respiratory distress.” His doctor reported that she believed he had contracted coronavirus.

Mayer says that results from a liquid sample taken from Gill’s lung came back showing no trace of the virus, but she adds: “This is not, the specialist explained, a definitive answer. By the time of Andy’s admission into hospital, he had been ill for weeks. The virus could have already left his body, but triggered immune complications.”

Mayer concludes: “We may never find out whether COVID-19 killed Andy, yet I will always know, in indelible detail, how he died. I will always know, intimately, how COVID-19 kills, the suffering it causes and the unbearable stillness that follows. 

“I will always know this – that we must do what it takes, whatever it takes, to prevent such deaths.”