My brother who is a doctor grimly said that the chances were very high for my catching Covid-19, based on my whole day interaction and spending a day with the person. I sat next to the person, worked on some projects, went for lunch, shared a small table, sat directly opposite, ate and laughed together, took wefies, and I even hugged the person when I first met the person who wore a mask. It was a warm, wonderful, meaningful day.

The very next day the person felt sick, showed mild Covid-19 symptoms such as a painful sore throat, slight fever, fatigued, and a headache. The person could smell and taste which are supposed to be a main characteristic of Covid-19, but maybe not for this one particular strain. Four days later the person tested positive.

Imagine the horror, the fear, the guilt, the regret, and imagine the countless implications. I had some sleepless nights. The people I was in close contact flashed in my mind. I had hugged my 84 year old uncle, chatted, touched, and sat with others and mothers with young children during a funeral service.

Was I a silent, asymptomatic, death-bringing Covid-19 super spreader? Could I unknowingly spread Covid-19 to the old folks at my uncle’s nursing home, causing death and mayhem. How can I ever live with that, if it had happened?

I recalled living in Hong Kong during the time when half of over 8,000 SARS cases in 2003 could be traced back to the one-night hotel stay from the infamous super spreader, Dr. Liu Jianlun, to seven people who all happened to stay on the same floor of the same Metropole Hotel, Hong Kong, before several of them traveled to other countries. It was a ‘hurricane in a teacup’ in my idle mind.

I tried to stay in equanimity. I did not panic or get paranoid, but I initially felt helpless. Talking with empowering relatives and close friends helped to put things in clearer perspectives. After all, we are all in the same boat of humanity together, coping and fighting with an invisible, silent killer of 2.28 million people globally. No one is to be blamed.

Although I showed no symptoms, I had to do the swab test as soon as possible. My relatives and I wanted to know if I was a Covid-19 carrier. And if I was, we could stop it from spreading further. It was obviously better to find out earlier rather than later.

I waited for less than one hour to do the PCR swab test in Tung Shin Hospital, Kuala Lumpur. It was absolutely nerve-wrecking waiting for the results of my swab test.

I tested negative.

Negative is the most positive word in 2020 and 2021.

It was a very close call indeed. I had to choke back my tears. It was one of my most horrifying and scary experiences in my life.

What a relief for both myself and others.

I feel I’ve been given a second life, a second chance. I’m very grateful.

I’m very grateful that I did not have Covid-19 when I hugged and comforted Uncle Sunny during his wife, Leong Moi@Liew Moy Lan’s funeral service. I was with him most the time in the Nirvana2 funeral service, pushed him around in his wheelchair, in the same car going to Nirvana Memorial Park Shah Alam, nudged my head touching his head when he cried and sobbed multiple times during lunch. We both wore a mask.

“Almost all evidence seems to point to a proportion of asymptomatic infections of around 40%, with a wide range,” says Rein Houben, an infectious diseases researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine. “The proportion is also highly variable with age. Nearly all infected children seem to remain asymptomatic, whereas the reverse seems to hold for the elderly.”

It’s so hard to do social distancing especially at funerals, weddings, newborn baby celebrations, reunions, and not to touch and hug relatives and friends in times of trouble, when they need your personal touch and warm comforting embrace. But 2m social distancing we must.

Two weeks ago, one of my clients, a top CHRO, shared he had mild Covid-19 symptoms. The hospital refused to check him in as he had mild symptoms. Recently the daughter shared he is in ICU. 50% of Covid-19 ICU patients will likely die, according to Dr. Lee Chew Kiok of Sungei Buloh Hospital, Malaysia.

I sense this may not be the last time I will have a very close call with a Covid-19 carrier, or scarier still with unknown, silent, stranger Covid-19 carriers, anywhere from a lift to a supermarket queue. Therefore, you and I need to be extra vigilant as new Covid-19 waves, new mutants, and new cases rise in many countries.

Think and focus on the positive, and I don’t mean positive as in a swab test. I pray that the person whom I had close encounters with, and the other 40 million still-to-be-recovered cases will recover from Covid-19 completely, and don’t feel guilty. I pray vaccines will be available soon, and will have high efficacy, and little side effects. I pray that our guardian angels will protect and guide us. A person is far more likely to be seriously harmed by a disease than by its vaccine, according to WHO.

Author: Robert Chaen is the Group CEO of The 9 New Norms To Covid-19 Recovery and Digital Transformation, and ChangeU EAcademy.

Published: 16th January 2021.
Updated: 8th February 2021.

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