The anchor of the ITV lunchtime chat show became emotional as she recounted attending her aunt’s funeral and not being able to hug her grieving family members.
Charlene and co-stars Nadia Sawalha, Carol McGiffin and Linda Robson were reacting to Boris Johnson’s admission that he attended a party in the garden of No 10 in May 2020, at the height of the first national lockdown.
Speaking on Thursday’s show, Charlene said: “There were so many unknowns at that time. There were so many of us right across the country that were terrified, we were terrified.
“We wanted to do our bit, we wanted to save the lives of those who were at risk, those who did have an underlying condition. So many of us were doing the right thing.
“There were loved ones you missed as a result of sticking by the rules and my family stuck by the rules. We had to bury family members without being able to hug each other.”
Through tears, Charlene continued: “I had to sit in a crematorium while my aunt was buried, because I wasn’t living in the same household as my brother and sister and my dad, in a pew by myself, with my baby daughter on my lap. we were all in floods of tears, and we couldn’t hug each other.
“I stood by the graveside as gravediggers were filling that grave and watching my cousin in floods of tears and not being able to hug her because we were following the rules. Because we didn’t know what else to do.
“We were told we had to follow the rules, so we were following the rules with the understanding that those in charge were also doing the same thing.”
Charlene explained she experiences delayed grief “in waves”, adding: “There are so many of us who haven’t grieved at all.
“And then you have a situation like this and it’s like, ‘well, should I have just hugged my cousin? If we weren’t all following the rules, should I have just hugged her?’.”
The presenter was supported by her on-screen colleagues, who also read out a number of messages from viewers were read out recounting their experiences of loss during the pandemic.
Charlene also received a flood of support from viewers online:
The prime minister is currently facing a torrent of criticism and calls for his resignation after he admitted that he did spend 25 minutes socialising with Downing Street staff at a No.10 drinks party back in May 2020, when the country was under lockdown.
However, Johnson has maintained that he did not actually break any rules because he “implicitly” thought it was a work event.
An inquiry into numerous allegations of parties at Downing Street during the pandemic is currently being led by civil servant Sue Gray.
Loose Women airs weekdays at 12.30pm on ITV.