On Monday morning I woke up with a sore throat. I had been to a dinner party the day before, where I may have enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine, but this felt didn’t feel like a hangover. As the day went on, I started to have a bit of a headache and felt achy in my body more generally. I took a Covid test, which was negative.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up after a restless night of feeling hot and thirsty. The headache and ache in the body was still there, so I took another Covid test from my dwindling supplies. This time, it only took a matter of seconds before the test came back with that tell-tale double red line of positivity. Having avoided Coronavirus for the duration of the pandemic, it was finally my turn in this viral game of pass the parcel.
According to the latest government advice, I should spend five days at home avoiding contact with other people. After that, I can then come and go as I please, without any need for further testing. At the time of writing at least, I suspect I could be feeling worse: I’m somewhat rough around the edges, but have enough provisions and paracetamol to see me through.
Officially, Covid is no longer an issue. Look at the official government statistics of new cases and they have dropped like a stone from a seven-day average of 120,000 in mid- March to just 12,000 barely six weeks later. Anecdotally, by contrast, Covid remains extremely virulent, with Omicron offshoots popping up here, there and everywhere. I’m sure, like me, you have plenty of friends and acquaintances who have tested positive in recent weeks.
The government are right in saying that we have to learn to live with the disease. But the decision to scrap free testing kits feels counter to allowing people to do so: the reason that the official figures are now so low is that nobody is bothering to test any more. If, as remains possible, a new variant appears (and South Africa is currently experiencing a new surge of infections via BA.4 and BA.5 variants), then we have lost what was a simple, straightforward way of tracking infections.
And, God forbid, should an emerging variant require stronger intervention and a return to restrictions and lockdowns, who would now listen to the current Prime Minister telling the nation that it is our responsibility to do our bit and stay indoors?
It might be appealing to put the pandemic in the past, but Covid remains very much out there. And as I’m currently experiencing, it’s not a barrel of laughs if (when?) you do catch it.