Besides My Best Endeavours, COVID Still Paid Me A Visit.
(I've been missing in action for a few weeks due to a liaison with a certain virus)
After 18 months of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, the pesky disease that's changed the world as we know it decided to pay me a visit.
Throughout 2020 we adapted to lives to try and keep the virus away. We stayed home and did all of the things that were, in a way, relatively novel. We baked our own bread, started a garden to become self-sufficient, read books, binged on Netflix and technically became hermits until the novelty wore off. When we did go out, we were fastidious in wearing masks, practically bathed in hand sanitiser and were cautious when in supermarkets and markets when buying supplies, keeping a 'safe' distance from our fellow human beings. So our world slowly shrank until it was just the two of us, our loyal housekeeper and gardener. All the while, we watched as the rest of the world battled a disease that seemed unstoppable.
Our beloved Bali seemed to have dodged a bullet in the first twelve months, with both the number of infections and the death rate remaining relatively low. After that, however, lockdowns of sorts came and went as trying to curtail a population who live their lives on a day to day basis was well- nigh impossible. The island's borders slammed shut, and with it the influx of tourists. Hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers were temporarily laid off, and hotels and restaurants shuttered their doors.
Most thought the shut-down would last six months at best, but now, eighteen months on, one wanders past hotels that have all but been abandoned with weeds growing where once immaculate gardens flourished. For Rent signs flap forlornly in the stiff trade winds clinging gamely to the windows of once-thriving small businesses.
In January, the tepid advance of the virus throughout the community suddenly gathered pace as a mutated and deadlier virus had arrived. Within days, we saw cases in the hundreds with the daily death toll climbing each and every week.
Then, the vaccine rollout began in earnest.
We were fortunate to travel during this time, taking a three month trip to Canada where we could see first-hand how other countries were coping. Travel was by no means easy and was cripplingly expensive but, we saw how Vancouver and British Columbia in general got on top of the situation within three months with a rapid rollout of their vaccination programme.
On our return to Bali, we received our first 'jab' and joined the 50% of the fully vaccinated population. Unfortunately, mask-wearing was still mandatory but, with everyone complying, the numbers kept dropping.
So, how did I contact COVID?
About a month ago, I went with a friend to Ubud, a small town in the hills and, on the way home, we stopped in at one of his friends to drop off a package. I was in the house no more than five minutes and wearing a mask. Three days later, my friend rang to say that the person we visited had tested positive. We immediately rushed out to get a PCR test.
One of us tested positive, me!!
My symptoms, which started a week later, were relatively mild even though I was extremely congested. My nose ran. My nostrils incessantly stung. I had the slightest fever; I coughed a bit and sneezed a lot. My head occasionally ached, and, most annoyingly, I fell victim to COVID-19's signature sign: an almost complete loss of taste and smell. However, most of my symptoms have subsided, and I was pleased to regain my smell and taste within 30 days.
So, how would I describe my bout of COVID-19?
Overall, it felt like a bad cold. I've certainly been sicker. However, perhaps the self-isolation within one's own home was particularly annoying, primarily as my partner had managed to avoid contracting the virus. Also, I have been wracked with guilt as for possibly four or five days before I became aware of my symptoms, I did have contact with some individuals ( strangers), and there is a chance that I inadvertently passed it on to them.
My single-shot vaccine and my "breakthrough infection" adds another data point to the hundreds of thousands already documented, suggesting that infections in vaccinated people are much rarer and far milder than infections experienced by unvaccinated individuals. Symptomatic illness duration is shortened by roughly half, and sickened individuals report vastly fewer fever and persistent cough incidences. There also appears to be no sign of "Long COVID," a condition that has been sensationalised by the media.
Being sick is no fun, of course, but it's a risk we've accepted for other common respiratory viruses, and it's one we will seemingly have to bear for COVID-19 going forward. I, for one, look forward to attending a packed bar or a raucous sporting event, a crowded movie theatre, with a COVID-ready immune system bolstered by both vaccination and infection, which according to science, offers a higher immunity.
Having had my brush with this disease, I have begun to take special note of countries battling the virus, namely the USA, where, as of 25th September, 175 million people are fully vaccinated. Only 2,182 fully vaccinated individuals have died from COVID-19, 87% of them over 65. Thus, the death rate for vaccinated individuals is about 1 in 80,000. Stratifying by age, the risk to those over age 65 is 1 in 20,000. For individuals aged 12-65, it's 1 in 400,000.
Over that same period, 1 out of every 2,000 Americans died of heart disease. In addition, 34,000 Americans perished in automobile accidents, so vaccinated individuals are currently about twice as likely to die in an automobile accident than from COVID-19!
1 out of every 2,700 Americans who aren't fully vaccinated has succumbed to COVID-19 over the past three months, which surely must answer the questions/ doubts of anti-vaxers.
The numbers do not lie.
This pandemic will eventually pass into an endemic phase where the coronavirus will, in all probability, circulate as the seasonal flu or persist as another cause of the common cold. And we will have to learn to live with it, accepting that it will visit all of us one day.
Safe and highly effective vaccines are the answer, granting us all the license to live our lives normally. At the same time, they don't do away with one's responsibility not to spread the coronavirus – or for that matter, any contagious illness – once infected. If you're sick, stay home or be outside well away from other people. If you need to venture out to perform essential chores, wear a mask. These actions constitute common courtesy to your fellow citizens.
You aren't entitled to knowingly spread your infectious disease.
There are lessons to be learned from this pandemic, some political but others simple: Heed scientists, not hucksters. Be courteous to your fellow human beings. And, as ever, take advantage of safe and effective vaccines.
It's the right thing to do!!
Bali, Indonesia September 2021
Paul v Walters is the best-selling author of several novels. When he is not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali, he occasionally rises to scribble for several international travel and vox pop journals.
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