With our allocated 5 days of Christmas coming up, we are all weighing up the risks. Who is worthy enough to be in our Christmas bubble, do we travel, and by what means do we travel?
Inevitably, we will all interpret the guidelines differently. Some of us will be extra careful to avoid any risk. Some of us will follow the guidelines to the letter, while others might seek to stretch the limits to squeeze in that aunt or uncle who’d otherwise be alone at Christmas. No matter what category you identify with most, one thing is for sure, it will be a Christmas unlike any we’ve seen before.
Regardless of our own personal views of the guidelines, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences from dealing with coronavirus recently. My hope is that sharing my story will be of help when making your own decisions.
A positive test result
About a month ago, before the second lockdown, I woke up to this message from the NHS:
“Your coronavirus test result is positive. It means you had the virus when the test was done. Try not to worry. You can often ease symptoms at home until you recover…”
It was the confirmation of what I’d already suspected as my sense of smell had become weirdly affected the day before.
In that moment ‘trying not to worry’ is easier said than done.
As soon as that positive test result comes in, the worry about having it or not immediately turns to who you could have possibly infected. Suddenly, the social distancing guidelines seem trivial and useless.
Retracing your steps
Once you test positive, the NHS test and trace system will get in touch asking for your recent contacts. Only contacts that have been within a 2-metre distance from you for longer than 15 minutes will be considered for the system. Everyone else is generally disregarded.
I had always been very careful, only being around people at work while keeping well within the government guidelines. However, it had been my birthday the previous weekend. I had been out to a restaurant to celebrate. Birthday eve was spent at a friend’s house. And throughout the week I’d met up with friends for coffee. All of this massively increased the amount of people I could have infected.
I have spent weeks wracking my brains trying to figure out what had caused my own infection and who I could have infected. As much as I wanted to hide in shame and guilt, I decided that the best course of action would be to not rely on ‘test and trace’ and take matters into my own hands.
My first step was to message everyone I had been in contact with over the past week. I then announced my status on social media. This way, people that had attended my classes at the gym would be aware of a potential risk and maybe make different decisions based on this information. Even though all my classes had been socially distanced and in accordance to all the guidelines. My thoughts were to better be safe than sorry.
Battling the guilt
It’s the feeling of guilt that could stop us from letting people know you could have possibly put them in danger. Imagine what it would feel like to tell someone they could have gotten ill because of you? Or having to tell them to self-isolate for 2 weeks for the slight possibility of catching it.
We know it’s the virus’s fault for spreading, but we keep asking ourselves these same questions:
- When did I catch it?
- What should I have done differently?
- When did my symptoms start?
- Should I have gotten tested sooner?
- Who was I in contact with?
- What if someone I know gets seriously ill?
We must let go of the guilt in order to move on.
When to get tested?
The government website offers only the 3 main symptoms: fever, cough, loss of smell and taste. My symptoms initially were: unusual fatigue, muscle soreness and a general sense of feeling unwell. The trouble was that these symptoms were not listed, and I felt I had to lie to get a test.
The main reason to get tested was because my partner was also starting to feel unwell. On top of that, I’d become aware of several people catching the virus. Now, I hadn’t been in touch with these people in a way that ‘test and trace’ would require me to self-isolate. It did, however, made me realise the risk of having caught it was rather high.
The choice of getting tested means you’ll have to self-isolate until you get back the results. This can be quite troublesome. It means you’ll have to cancel all your commitments for the next couple of days. Which sounds easy in theory, but the reality of it is something else. There never seems to be a good time to get tested.
Once I received my positive test result, I was more than happy to isolate and even added on a few days extra to be on the safe side. As a carrier of the virus your role is clear, it is vital to stop the spread and you know for a fact that isolation is a sure way to keep everyone safe. It is easy to sacrifice yourself for the good of the community when you are a 100% certain that what you are doing is helpful.
Everything changes when you are not certain about your COVID-19 status. Would you be happy to put your life on hold for 2 weeks when you may or may not be a carrier? In a perfect world we would all be happy to sacrifice 2 weeks. After all, what are 14 days in a lifetime? The trouble is of course that it’s not 2 weeks. We have effectively been in isolation since late March and the cracks are starting to show. Imagine having to miss Christmas altogether for having to self-isolate?
Planning your COVID Christmas
All we can really do during these uncertain times is weigh up the risks for ourselves and our loved ones. The guidelines are merely just that: guidelines. They can never be a guarantee, simply a pretty safe bet to keep us safe.
It’s up to us to weigh up our own pros and cons when planning our Christmas celebrations. In doing so, remember that it’s not just about the celebration; it’s about the people we love and care for. Not only during Christmas, but throughout the year.