Corontined: One Man’s Story and Advice After Being Quarantined During Coronavirus

Two days later, I get a call telling me that I am to drive to the hospital the next day at a specific time, windows up, to a secure location in what felt like the drug deal of the century. 

Two days later, I get a call telling me that I am to drive to the hospital the next day at a specific time, windows up, to a secure location in what felt like the drug deal of the century. 

The outbreak of the decade has gone viral and is on everyone’s mind, shifting from the initial shock and updates from the news of the increasing numbers of infected people, to something a lot more tangible with schools, religious centres and even entire countries being among the many social venues closing in an attempt to contain this surge. 

Having just been giving the all clear from the NHS after I had to self isolate despite being asymptomatic, I thought I’d describe the process and my experience. Hopefully those of you lucky enough to have dodged the need for this will get a good insight into the life of a temporary self-isolator, and others who’ve been asked to corontine themselves can nod at the screen in the comfort of their homes.

I visited Iran a month ago to visit the holy shrines in Qom and Mashhad that mark the burial grounds of the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad for a bit of a holiday, as it’s incredibly cheap to get by there if you have pounds. It’s a beautiful country whose landscape is vast and ever-changing and outside of its current situation, well worth a visit. 

While there, on a quaint little island called Kish, I heard of the first cases of the virus surfacing in the holy city of Qom, where I’d been only a week beforehand. With our flight to London being scheduled for a couple of days after this, I was eager to get back following this news. Little did I know that if it was a few days after, I’d still be there today what with all the borders to Iran closing and the country ultimately being quarantined.

I landed in London a relieved man but didn’t think much more of the situation as Iran hadn’t joined the initial countries that were on the list telling those returning that they had to self isolate. I even had a routine hospital appointment on the day I landed in which the doctor asked where I’d been. When I stated that I’d returned from Iran, they were actually relieved as it wasn’t on the list at the time. How things can change within hours…

I was at work the following day or two when I got a text from my brother. It was a link to the government website that stated that if you’d returned from Iran, you had to immediately self isolate and call 111, EVEN IF YOU WERE ASYMPTOMATIC. What’s odd was that for the majority of the other countries, you only needed to quarantine yourself if you did have symptoms. Nevertheless, I immediately made my way home after informing my colleagues and reassuring them that I was fine and didn’t have any symptoms.

I called 111 at a time where the influx of callers hadn’t hit their systems yet. They were quite kind and put me at ease, informing me that I just needed to self isolate for a while and that a medical professional would be calling me soon after. When I asked how long for though, they responded with 14 days. Fourteen days. Two weeks within the walls of a rented flat. The only saving grace was that I had my brilliant wife for company. I’m sure she felt the same way(!) I knew it wouldn’t be long until I’d drive her crazy while in the bunker. Meanwhile we’d be waiting for this elusive phone call with the warning that it could be literally anytime in the next day or night.

There isn’t much advice that’s been given to those in isolation after the instruction to do so. You’re just there in your space, somehow hoping for the call from the consultant giving you more information and instructions but then realising that it will never arrive because of an underfunded health service.

What isn’t mentioned anywhere is how much time is spent just waiting. Getting the all-clear is always on the back of your mind yet you can’t leave to do anything while you wait. The walls begin to feel a lot closer together and you’re there questioning why no one has even arranged for you to get tested. This was after hour two. Of day one of the fourteen.

My wife is self-employed and works with patients. She was and still is completely fine. However, she was impacted quite heavily by this as she couldn’t get to work during this time and therefore wasn’t getting paid. I was thankfully able to work from home so the worry was eased, but it got me thinking and praying for those people in the gig economy who are reliant on being at their place of work everyday in order to put food on the table and pay the rent. Not being paid for two weeks while being perfectly healthy yet asked not leave your home would be extremely frustrating, as observed through my wife’s justified gripes.

I sincerely hope and call for emergency arrangements to be made that accommodate for people in the gig economy during this period and beyond if this turns into something wider reaching. 

After day three, I started getting fidgety and called 111 asking for the consultant, as if that was going help matters. They predictably tell me that that’s handled by another department etc and that I should just sit tight. And indoors. 

Two days later than expected, I get the call. I didn’t have the main symptoms but I always get a bit of a sniffle when it’s cold and the end of February had a particularly sharp bite to it. The person at the other end was able to sympathise and after my repeated requests to get swabbed, was told that because I was lucky (!) enough to have this sniffle and tickly throat, that someone would call back in the next 24 hours to arrange for me to get tested. They also warned me that the call could come at any time, and that I had to wait, which came as a massive shock to me…

Two days later, I get a call telling me that I am to drive to the hospital the next day at a specific time, windows up, to a secure location in what felt like the drug deal of the century. 

Stepping out of the house for the first time in days felt so trippy. I was seeing new colours, the neighbourhood pigeons were a more welcome sight than they ever have been or ever will be…even the constant barking of the dog down the street felt more melodious. Feeling like a man on day release, I drove to the hospital with my wife, relieved that this tedious ordeal was nearly over.

I reached the destination and turned a corner to behold a hilarious yet surreal sight. There were these two people in hazmat suits gesturing to us to park next to them and it felt like I was living through those epidemic movies. Like all drug deals (apparently) I rolled my window down to begin this shady encounter and after some muffled pleasantries the doctor/nurse/hazmat person said that they were ready to test.

They then shoved the longest cotton swab I’ve ever laid eyes on down my throat, swirled it and then so far up my nose that I swear my eye ball felt a little tickle (because that’s how the anatomy works, trust me.) After then being asked to spit in a capsule, I drove off with my wife who went through a slightly gentler version of the ordeal, feeling slightly violated but relieved that we’d be given the all clear pretty soon. Or so I thought…

More waiting followed. Friday turned to Sunday and then Monday, and my wife had to miss another day of work without getting paid. 

One and a half days later than expected, still no news. The phone number for the hospital was probably inundated as it was giving me that weird tone, and yet we kept trying every so often. “Still processing” they said. They finally picked up and said that we were fine, which came to us a massive surprise…

The freedom felt amazing and we left the house immediately after, then returned minutes later as it was hailing outside which no-one has time for. Very poetic.

My key takeaways from this epic saga are as follows:

  • If you’ve travelled to those countries and have returned on the dates prescribed, be proactive and actually make the effort to self isolate as it: 
    • removes the risk of infection spreading to others from you (because you have to assume you may be a carrier).
    • is the right thing to do and puts the people around you (colleagues, friends etc), who may or may not be aware that you’ve returned from those countries at ease knowing they aren’t at risk of getting infected and passing it on. 
    • it’ll consequently garner a lot of trust and goodwill towards you as they obviously understand the inconvenience of it all, especially if asymptomatic.
  • There’s a lot of waiting involved. And then even more waiting. Followed by waiting. Please be patient, as the NHS is constantly having their resources slashed and yet expected to then water into vaccines.
  • It really affects people who are self employed/need to be present at their work places in order to get paid. Please support these people as much as you can. Groceries to their door step,  phone calls, other favours that let them know that they have support does the world of good.
  • Cabin fever (which isn’t a symptom of the virus) is actually a thing that can happen. Netflix, a book that’s gathered dust on your shelf, or a new hobby are good prescriptions to combat it.
  • There isn’t much in the way of guidance when it comes to dealing with needing to self isolate so the following may help:
    • Order your shopping online for the 14 days and if delivery aren’t available imminently, ask people for help with dropping it to your door. It’s a unique situation so I am sure they’ll be happy to help.
    • Drink plenty of water and take measures to combat any thing that could bring up cold like symptoms. 
    • Plan alternatives to going out for the next 14 days so that you’re not waking up every morning thinking “now what?”.
    • If you need urgent items (apart from toilet roll..you need God’s help for that), either ask someone to get it for you. Caution is always urged even if your asymptomatic.
    • Keep up to date with the gov.uk alerts as the situation is always changing.

Look after yourselves everyone! I feel its moved beyond originating from certain countries. It’s all around us. Use this guide as inspiration. Stay safe.

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