Recovering from coronavirus – ‘It has been no picnic’

Journalist Rachel Roberts.

Journalist Rachel Roberts. - Credit: Rachel Roberts

North London freelance journalist and former Ham&High political reporter Rachel Roberts has had all the symptoms of coronavirus. Here she describes her road to recovery.

I was travelling in Thailand when I first heard reports of the coronavirus outbreak and began receiving messages warning me to “take care”.

I rolled my eyes, remembered when we were all supposedly going to die of bird flu, and continued merrily on my way. With only two recorded cases in Thailand, I didn’t feel at risk.

On the flight back from Bangkok to London in late January, most of the Asian passengers wore a mask, while very few of the westerners did. We must have thought we were immune.

Of course I did not catch the hideous thing in Asia, but back here in the UK. Like everyone else,I watched as the situation slowly crept up on us and suddenly escalated into a crisis.

I’m as sure as I can be that I have had it, given that I have not been tested. Two friends who I spent time with recently have also been struck with the illness. Being relatively young, fit and healthy, my case has been predictably “mild”.

It has been no picnic though, let me tell you. The first 24 hours were up there with the worst case of flu I recall having. I hoped it was “just” flu, but then came the chest constrictions, which I have never experienced before.

Little twinges on day three and four, then at night, a tightness, not quite like a boa constrictor, but more like a small animal had come and plonked itself on my chest.

At no point did I feel really scared, but there is something slightly unsettling about self-isolating alone with a “novel” illness, especially when your family all live in a different part of the country.

Most Read

I can only imagine how frightening it must be for an older person or someone with underlying health conditions to self-isolate.

It did not help that at first I had no paracetamol to manage the pain and fever as I had been away and the stockpilers had stripped the shelves of it and been on their crazed loo roll stampede.

I never imagined I would feel such gratitude to my parents for posting me paracetamol, but there we are. Strange times.

Luckily I had just enough food to see me through my isolation – and that was all I needed. Not your share as well. Just mine. Neighbourhood groups have since sprung up online with people offering to bring supplies to those who cannot get to the shops, and I will happily volunteer my services once I am fully recovered.

There are positives in getting the thing early. I no longer have to fear it myself – assuming that we cannot get it again – and I would be able to look after my parents or other older relatives if necessary.

It is easy to be wise after the event, but the authorities could have shut this thing down much earlier with decisive worldwide action, and I hope they will learn the lesson if another “novel” virus rears its ugly head in the future.

Where there is the threat of a pandemic, you have to shut the shop – close borders to all who are not citizens, allow residents to return, but test them at the

border and then quarantine them.

This would do far less overall damage to the global economy than the laissez-faire attitude governments appeared to initially adopt to the creeping threat, and save countless lives.

But we are where we are. We have a collective responsibility to stick to the guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing, not to put any unnecessary pressure on the NHS and to stop the stockpiling lunacy. Just shop normally and there will be enough for everyone.

There is such thing as society and we all depend on each other, now more than ever.

It would be nice to think we might all be a little changed for the better by this experience, when we eventually come through it.

Follow our live blog for the latest on coronavirus from across north London.