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'OMG, do you have Covid?': How the pandemic has made common cold the least likely possibility

Earlier if you displayed signs of a Panadol-popping moment, people around would say stuff like “Have Vitamin C”, or “Have grated ginger with honey, it really works”



by

Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 13 May 2022, 12:08 AM

My sense vis-à-vis my sensibilities has been heightened. For instance, whenever I am in a public area, like, say, the metro station or my building lobby, and I need to sneeze, or cough, I feel guilty… very guilty. And ashamed. I begin to believe everyone is judging me through Covid-induced suspicion.

Then, there was that time when I held in a sneeze — or was it a cough? — while I was in a taxi lest the cabbie judged me. It was a huge effort trying to suppress it for a good 15 minutes, and when I finally got out of the cab, I looked around furtively to see if anyone was within earshot and then sneezed/coughed out loud.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt a bad cold descend on me. I could actually feel it take shape in my throat. The air-conditioning at work was at an uber level, and I had just come in from a spate of time under the blazing sun. All the formulas were in the place and I knew it was a matter of time when the ‘equal to’ part of the equation would kick in. And it did. By afternoon, I was sneezing and coughing and popping in paracetamols. A friend called right then and wanted to know if I’d like to meet. “I have a bad cold,” I started, “but, yes, I guess we can after work.”

“Absolutely not,” she exclaimed. “I’m travelling next week, and I don’t want to contract Covid from you… we’ll meet after I’m back.”

“Who said I have Covid?”

“Well, these days, you can’t be sure, can you?” she whispered as she hung up.

There’s a colleague at work who wears double protection: two masks, front on back. When I mentioned I may have contracted a cold, he pulled both masks tighter around his face and hissed: “Go home, right now.”

Earlier if you displayed signs of a Panadol-popping moment, people around would say stuff like “Have Vitamin C”, or “Have grated ginger with honey, it really works”. Now they ask, “OMG, do you have Covid?”

Am I not allowed to fall sick without everyone assuming I have Covid? Whatever happened to the simple cold? I miss the times when I could cough and sneeze — etiquette and social graces in place obviously — without feeling I’m public enemy no 1.

The other day, I was walking down the metro walkway with a friend, and there was a couple holding hands and being cute while their little son ran alongside, coughing all the way.

“Wait!” my friend screamed, grabbing my arm and slowing me down. “I think that child has Covid, don’t get anywhere close to them.”

“But there’s at least a 6-metre expanse lying between us and them, and social distancing says 2 metres is all that’s needed to be Covid-protected,” I protested.

“Let’s not take a chance, shall we?” he barked.

I had to slow down.

sushmita@khaleejtimes.com


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