Wednesday 15 December 2021

Coronavirus streets on my mind - LII

On the advent of the pandemic

In a way, I want to reflect on my experience of this Coronavirus pandemic; it has been troubling, difficult, and long. If I dwelt on the incompetence of my government that has marshalled and shepherded a death rate still unrivalled amongst its peers in Europe, I would find myself a misfit amongst other things, but I have to think for myself and those in my immediate community.

When the pandemic started, I was first classed in the highly vulnerable cohort and required to shield, but the British HIV Association came out with an update advising that those of us with an undetectable viral load and a CD4 cell count above 250, should not need to shield.

That did not make me any less vulnerable as anyone with HIV is immunosuppressed to a degree, we still need to continue our medication regimes and attend our scheduled check-ups. I had returned from South Africa by mid-January 2020 and within 2 weeks I was down with a water infection that required an albeit short hospital admission and weeks of weakness that took a while to recuperate from.

The choices that chilled

If that illness had happened in April, I would have been asked to stay at home and hope for the best when intravenous antibiotics and two sessions of electrolytes would have been needed to get me back to normal. The thought that doctors had unilaterally placed Do Not Resuscitate on a whole swathe of vulnerable patients on their register to apparently save the NHS sent a chill down my spine.

Blog - Thought Picnic: From chills to thrills in health updates

I for one kept isolated as much as I could, wore a face mask everywhere, avoided crowds and enclosed places. I even took to walking exercises as I longed for the opportunity to return to South Africa to be with Brian and that was not until mid-December. If I had not left in the week that I did, I would have been caught by the lockdown in the UK that fuelled another wave of infections and deaths.

Personal precautions, all the time

In South Africa, we had a lockdown too, with a curfew and an alcohol ban, though we could not visit the beach, we could the parks and botanical gardens which we took advantage of. Everywhere we went, we had to don facemasks, had our temperature taken, sanitise our hands and leave our contact details for track and trace purposes. There was a variant on the loose, but we were not careless about our health and welfare.

The only time we ended up in anything like a crowd was when we had to take fitness to travel PCR tests, for at that time, only one laboratory offered reliable tests accepted for travel purposes. This was before there was a vaccine and when we had not yet been offered the option to take it.

On return to the UK, I had to self-isolate at home for 10 days, but I was invited on the 5th day for a test that proved negative and so earned an early release from my isolation. All the while, I was working from home and doing my best to thrive, despite the circumstances.

Every measure for safe living

Through this year, I had my first Pfizer jab in the last week of February, the Delta variant turned into a community threat from April into May, requiring another lockdown and in the first week of May, I got my second Pfizer jab. Much as we planned for another rendezvous in South Africa, it was beginning to look like we might not meet until the end of the year.

I had my hospital consultations for HIV in April and October, my annual flu jab and then took my third Pfizer jab or the booster shot in the second week of November. From October, we had decided December was the earliest we could meet again, and I put in my plans for holiday for the whole of December and the first two weeks of January. I would suppose I was granted the time compassionately with respect to my circumstances and the agency has provided a stand-in for the time that I am away.

Much as we are vaccinated, we are not throwing caution to the winds, as the same precautions we observed last year when there was no vaccine, we have observed diligently even as many we see on the streets seem to care nothing about the pandemic that has hardly gone away.

Calm in the face of turmoil

Just a week before my departure from England, South Africa and neighbouring southern African countries were placed on the red list that required any returnees to the UK to take up exorbitant hotel quarantine for 11 nights regardless of vaccination status, it could have scuppered our plans, but as my absence would be for 6 weeks and we were still learning about the Omicron variant, I felt that things would change during that period. I had to field many enquiries about my plans, but I remained calm and sanguine.

I changed nothing about my plans and flew out on the 3rd of December, I am glad to note that the red list has been completely depleted from this morning and it is my hope that no radical changes occur for the rest of my sojourn here. Despite what the governments in many countries think they should be doing regarding this pandemic; I think they should be giving us advice and full information about the state of the pandemic.

Not getting too smart about it

However, I think it is now down to personal responsibility to take the utmost and particular attention to one’s health, to get vaccinated, to take precautions, and to navigate out Coronavirus streets with moderation, common sense and every safety measure to avoid contracting this virus.

Much as I cannot understand the inclination for vaccine hesitancy from the unlearned, talk less of those in the health services, I can only wonder how they expect to fight a virus with a naïve immune system, but each to their own, I know, I need vaccines against many things and some I cannot take like the yellow fever vaccine because it has a life though attenuated virus.

We are making the best of the time we have together and that is also for our health, our wellbeing and most importantly, our mental health too.

Blog - Quarantined in my self-isolation

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