We've got news for you.

Register on Sunday Times at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

This is what it feels like to have Covid-19: SA finance exec


This is what it feels like to have Covid-19: SA finance exec

Don’t be afraid of the virus, but you do need to be afraid of spreading it, says Andrew McPherson

Senior features writer
Financial executive Andrew McPherson.
MAN'S BEST FRIEND Financial executive Andrew McPherson.
Image: Supplied

Financial executive Andrew McPherson could not believe it when he tested positive for Covid-19 because he did not feel very sick.

“I’ve had the flu before, and this is not close to a bad flu,” said the fit 45-year-old.

He felt sick but said the symptoms were “like a mild flu”, nothing to be anxious about, and a week later he felt better.

“I got really stiff and sore and felt like I had been in a rugby game. I got tired and found it difficult to concentrate, and I had a headache behind my eyes. My chest got a bit tight, but I am asthmatic.”

McPherson, one of more than 200 South Africans to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, travelled to Zurich in the first week of March. At that time, Switzerland had only one confirmed case. But by the time he left four days later, it had 200 cases.

“I honestly thought I was fine, and it was a big shock when I tested positive. I would not want to have infected anyone ...

“Don’t be afraid of the virus. But you do need to be afraid of spreading the virus. Behave as if you have the coronavirus!”

McPherson said he was not worried for his own health, but became aware that older and weaker people would be at risk.

“I had a slightly scratchy throat and cough, and didn’t know yet those were symptoms,” said McPherson.

“At the airport they scanned me for fever, and I said that I had a slightly sore throat, and they said that was fine.”

But he refused, as a precaution, his mother’s offer to fetch him at the airport, knowing by then that 10% of people his parents’ age were likely to die of Covid-19.

“Old Mutual was very responsible, and they told me not to return to work for three weeks and to take a test because they were aware of the risk.

“I self-isolated and phoned my doctor for a test. When he got permission from the NICD to test, I went to a private hospital to test for it.”

Going for the test was an interesting experience.

After I got my test result, I started panicking about how lackadaisical people were.

McPherson said he was put in a waiting room with other people, including a pregnant woman, and he warned them that he was there for a coronavirus test.

“I sat in a corner and told them not to come near me,” he said.

Nobody had gloves on at first when they checked his vital signs, but when they came to do the test for coronavirus they were suited up.

“When they phoned me the next morning I honestly expected to be fine, but I was told: ‘Unfortunately you are positive for coronavirus. You must stay at home ...’

McPherson said people mustn’t feel anxious about getting infected but must be responsible for keeping their distance from each other.

“After I got my test result, I started panicking about how lackadaisical people were,” he said.

McPherson went on a campaign to raise awareness, even contacting Western Cape premier Alan Winde among others, about driving safety messages home .

He posted on Facebook, did radio interviews and interviews with business media, emphasising people needed to take this pandemic very seriously.

“I commend President Ramaphosa 100%. He put SA ahead of Europe and the US,” he said of last Sunday’s declaration of a national disaster.

“People need to stop panicking and hoarding. For 85% of us, this won’t be an issue, unless we have a car accident and there are no beds in the ICU, which is overrun by coronavirus,” he noted.

“As long as you wash your hands, you don’t have your hands in your mouth, nose or eyes, and as long as you keep your distance and nobody spits or sneezes on you, you should be fine.

“We need to have a strong sense of responsibility for ourselves and our actions – and for the community.

“The biggest danger here is spreading the virus! We need to slow down the rate of it spreading. Unless everyone is OK, nobody is OK.”