Opinion

Rachel Smalley: The seemingly untameable beast that is COVID

OPINION

I’ve had a touch of the ol’ COVID.

I don’t know if I had the original Omicron, the Omicron BA.4 variant, or perhaps the BA.5? I’m not sure where that sits in terms of the BA2.75 which is a sub-variant of the BA.2? Who knows? And what does BA stand for? Bloody Awful, I think.  

Dave went down first. Then I followed. The 13-year-old was stuck indoors with us for a week, he was off school and self-isolating because the grown-ups in the house were coughing and spluttering, but he managed to dodge it. He’s double vaxxed because of his age, and we’re triple vaxxed.

I saw Mum about 10 days ago when Dave was possibly on the cusp of infection and yesterday she tested positive. She's in Christchurch, I think she caught it from a friend there, and as of yesterday, Canterbury had the most infections. If you’re in Canterbury right now, look after yourself. The infection rate is high.

What was it like? A bit odd. A cranking headache, the strangest ache in my jaw for two days that made me feel like my teeth would fall out, a fever and a dry cough that was, according to Dave, a bit like sharing a house with a seal. At the crescendo, it felt like the worst hangover or perhaps alcohol poisoning, and then it was gone….and it left a blocked nose and the seal cough in its wake. 

I did try to register our COVID status but gave up. Not through any fault of the system, necessarily. I couldn’t work it out and then it kicked me out so I gave up. If you're sick and you've got brain fog, it can all seem a bit hard. Mum tried to register too but gave up as well. She’s 74, she’s sick, and she had a few issues, so she and her friend gave up. Anecdotally, I know there are many of us like this. Some of us haven’t registered our COVID status and yet our daily COVID numbers are still cranking -- almost 10,000 yesterday. So I think we can safely say, the true infection rate is higher than what's being reported each day. 

So what do we do? What should we do? Case numbers are rising sharply.

The Government has been criticised for over-communicating at times but the silence at the moment is deafening. The polls will have told Labour that everyone's a bit over COVID, and that's why the PM has distanced herself from the response. And our Director-General, Ashley Bloomfield has resigned, so we're a bit at sea and reliant on Ministers -- which is fine, but I think we need to hear more from them. 

Late yesterday, in New South Wales, officials confirmed they are in the midst of another significant wave of infections. They are pushing for the Government to expand eligibility for a fourth dose of the vaccine. And they don't believe the wave will peak until late this month, or early in August. The Premier has stated that masks must now be worn inside again. In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, the Chief Health Officer reiterated the new variants can evade the vaccination and any immunity you’ve developed from a previous infection.

So....this would be a good time for our Government to step up again too. What do we know about these variants? What is the science overseas telling us? What access does the Ministry of Health have to that information? And are the RAT tests still efficient at detecting the variants? NSW officials say if your RAT is negative but you have all the signs, you should stay home. Should we do the same? Who knows? 

I don’t want to spread fear, but there's a bit of an information vacuum about these variants. So my advice would be to buckle up people. Crack on with life. Don’t stop doing what you're doing. But wear a mask. Be very conscious of hand hygiene  -- get some more hand sanitiser and put it on your desk, in your handbag or in the car. 

Our health system is in trouble for many, many reasons and if you can ride out July and August – our coldest, toughest months – without needing hospital-level care, then you should do everything you can to do so. This is a good time to reassess your risk of infection, and the risk to those around you. 

What I had wasn’t nice and while we know the virus doesn't discriminate - it can affect some worse than others and there's no rhyme or reason to it -  I am fit. I’m 50, I'm a runner, I'm in pretty good health, I can't recall the last time I was sick, but this thing knocked me. 

So, for your sake, for the public's sake, for the sake of our hospital workers....mask up and look after yourself over the next few weeks.

Many of us are six months on from our third dose – I was. Many of us will have lost some of our immunity, so you need to look after yourself. Self-awareness and self-care are your best armour right now. 

Extraordinary, isn't it? Two and a half years on, and we’re still fighting this beast.