THE granddaughter of a Darlington woman who died after falling ill from coronavirus has paid tribute to a 'loving, caring' woman and 'a force to be reckoned with.'

Jennifer Whitfield of Bellburn Lane, Cockerton died at Darlington Memorial Hospital on Sunday night after contracting COVID-19.

Her family have since urged members of the public to listen to government advice to stay inside and take the effects of the virus extremely 'seriously.'

Speaking to The Northern Echo, her granddaughter Emma Whitfield said the family had been left heartbroken by the former factory worker's sudden death.

Paying an emotional tribute, Ms Whitfield said: "She was a force to be reckoned with, with a heart of gold.

"She gave the best advice, she was funny and always making daft jokes, she would do anything for anyone."

Mrs Whitfield, who lived in Darlington throughout her entire life, was married to husband Lionel and had their son Simon along with five grandchildren Emma, Katy, Simon, Summer and Matthew.

The Northern Echo:

Ms Whitfield said: "Her family were her absolute everything, she was always helping someone out, whether I needed a hole in my favourite trousers fixing to helping with things for mine and my sisters' houses.

"She had a caravan in Redcar and used to spend around six months of the year there, she loved it she had lots of friends there.

"She also loved all birds, always owning a budgie she loved keeping busy and spoiling her grandchildren."

Among going to her caravan Mrs Whitfield, who had worked as a switchboard worker at Cleveland Bridge for a number of years, enjoyed looking after her plants, sewing and the odd gin.

Ms Whitfield said: "She loved going out for pub lunches, she loved to sow, she loved taking care of her plants, she enjoyed the odd gin and pink lemonade while sunbathing, we used to spend our six weeks' holidays at the caravan, she used to take us all down to the sea and arcades."

Describing how quickly life had changed, Ms Whitfield said the loss of her grandmother remained 'hard' to process.

She said: "She would ring me just for a chat if she knew I was having a difficult time.

"It is so hard for me because she’s not here for me to call."

But thanking the NHS staff who cared for Mrs Whitfield at Darlington Memorial Hospital, on behalf of the family Ms Whitfield said: "Our family all thank the NHS staff who helped care for her while she was in hospital.

"Some of the doctors, nurses and porters have got in touch with me to tell me great things about her and we couldn’t be more grateful."

Issuing a heartfelt plea for people to adhere to social distancing measures and respect the advice given for Britons to stay at home, to prevent the spread of the virus, she said: "Please stay inside and follow government advice when it comes to this virus, you’re doing it so when this is over you’re missing nobody from around the family table.

"You’re protecting your family and others, please be serious and stay safe."