I finally caught Covid, and with no law to guide us, it’s become a moral maze...

We have been told that we have to live alongside Covid - but what does that mean in practice? So asks John Dolan in his weekly column
I finally caught Covid, and with no law to guide us, it’s become a moral maze...

"Even when an occasional cough started up, alarm bells failed to ring. I had to be gently persuaded to take an antigen test, and there it was - the line that said I had Covid."

FOR two-and-a-half years, I had - to the best of my knowledge - managed to dodge the Covid-19 bullet.

Call it luck, call it circumstance - I live with my family in a fairly isolated spot in the country and can easily work from home - or call it my devotion to hand-washing and good hygiene, but the virus had stayed away.

Indeed, none of the six people in my family had succumbed until this year, when two of our lads caught it separately - they were banished to their rooms for a week like pariahs and nobody else was infected.

I took the three vaccinations I was offered and, like most people, had moved on from Covid-19. But Covid-19, although much mutated, hadn’t moved on from us.

When I took a short break in the Isle of Man last month, I was immune to the rumblings of talk about a new wave of the virus. Had I checked, I would have discovered the island, fresh from being jammers for a fortnight by the TT Races motorbike mobs, had become a Covid petri-dish.

Equally, I could have picked up the bug on one of the plane journeys.

When I returned home from my break, I initially put my sluggish feeling down to a lengthy, middle-aged hangover (yes, I had over-indulged a tad).

Even when an occasional cough started up, alarm bells failed to ring. I had to be gently persuaded to take an antigen test, and there it was - the line that said I had Covid.

And this was no faint line - it was the thickness of a child’s crayon daub (not that it’s a competition, you understand!). And the thick line remained for days after.

Despite this indication that I had a heavy payload of the virus, I had very mild symptoms. The occasional cough lasted for two or three days, and a slight sniffle lasted for a day. After that, I just felt a little ‘off’ for a few days. I could still work (isolated) at home, and still exercise outdoors.

Naturally, I read up online and heard some different experiences - I fretted that my mild symptoms could worsen at any stage, and I was also concerned about stories of long Covid, neither of which, thankfully, have transpired.

I just got lucky. I’m not daft enough to think a mild illness for me means the same for everyone - that kind of talk is for the birds. Covid appears to be a lottery, and I was one of the fortunate ones. The fact I had been jabbed, albeit a year earlier, surely helped too.

Of course, as soon as I was diagnosed, I was packed away from the rest of the family in a separate room, and isolated until I got the all-clear. Nobody else caught it.

However, my experience did give me an insight into how we approach Covid-19 in 2022. 

We have been told that we have to live alongside it - but what does that mean in practice?

Well, the answer is that it means whatever you want it to mean. It all depends on each person’s circumstances, and indeed, their whole approach to the pandemic, from the most cautious, worried vulnerable person, to the daft conspiracy theorist who reckons Bill Gates has a dark hand in the whole thing.

For the first two years of the pandemic, the Government brought in laws and emergency powers to curb the spread.

If you caught Covid, it was very clear what you had to do. You followed the rules laid down. And the vast majority of us did, to the letter - to keep ourselves safe, or loved ones safe, or indeed the wider community.

Then, in the spring, all the Covid restrictions were lifted.

It was a pivotal moment in the fight against this new virus - freedom at last. It was also one in the eye for those who had feared the unprecedented emergency powers would never be pared back; that this was a new way for society to be controlled.

It’s also fair to say that many people felt some restrictions ought to stay, that the fight was not over, that Covid was - indeed still is - capable of killing and seriously affecting swathes of people.

There were more than 1,000 people in Irish hospitals with the virus this week.

However, overall, I feel the decision to end all restrictions was correct - but it handed responsibility for preventing the spread of the virus over to individuals. And, As I said, every individual will have a different approach.

My own circumstances were interesting. When I was diagnosed, our family holiday in the UK was approaching. What if I still had Covid the day we were meant to depart? Could I, should I, risk sharing a car, while masked, with my family for several hours? Even if we were to do that, could I board a car ferry for four hours and isolate from people there?

Thankfully, I passed negative before the holiday, as did the rest of my family, but in the meantime, we had considered leaving me behind, and perhaps I could catch a plane over later, which would be expensive and entail a whole day’s travel, and put a real dampener on the holiday.

I’m relieved it didn’t come to that, but these are the kinds of moral and ethical decisions people are having to make on a daily basis, as a new wave of Covid hits us.

I was chatting to one man whose friend had tested positive for Covid while abroad. He wasn’t sick and felt he had no choice but to catch the plane home while wearing a mask. Was that morally wrong? And what if he had been sat beside an elderly, vulnerable person?

It’s certainly not illegal. There is no longer a requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery to travel to Ireland. The Passenger Locator Form is gone.

So it’s an individual’s decision.

In standing down all its emergency Covid powers, our Government has invited each of us into a moral maze.

I remember the era pre-Covid, when I would rock up to the office with a mild cold or cough - I wouldn’t dream of doing that now, so how should people act if they test positive for Covid?

It’s worth passing on here the official advice on the Citizens Information website:

You are advised to wear a face mask on public transport and in healthcare settings.

You should continue to self-isolate if you have symptoms of Covid-19. Do so until 48 hours after your symptoms end.

You no longer need a Covid test if you have symptoms, unless you: Are 55 or older and have not had a booster; Have a high-risk medical condition; Are immunocompromised; Live in the same household or provide care and support to someone who is immunocompromised; Are pregnant; Or are a healthcare worker

If you are a close contact with no symptoms, you no longer need a test unless you are a healthcare worker who is a household close contact.

Hidden amongst all this advice are a slew of moral questions each of us must address if we get Covid. Do we need stronger guidance, or do we allow individual freedom to trump the welfare of society?

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