written by: Michal Reibenbach
We are on our way home from a holiday in Cambodia, the plane is flying among the clouds. As it dips downwards towards Hong Kong airport my ears plug up. I feel the plane shudders as it hits the runway and comes to a stop. We descend the stairs. Cold air hits my face and I can smell diesel. We enter the terminal, the building is built from glass and concrete, underfoot the silver tiles gleam. Plasma screens of arrival and departure times hang from one of the walls. All around us I see a sea of irritated faces covered in masks. A stewardess also provides us with masks and we are herded like sheep into an empty part of the terminal. My stomach churns with worry. The thought of being forced to wait all day for our connecting flight in this crowded place where everyone is wearing masks isn’t pleasant.
Arriving back in Israel I am sick with a bad case of flu’, my body aches, I’m burning with fever, I cough, sneeze and I’m clogged up with phlegm. Have I caught the new strain, the Coronavirus or a more common variety? I rush off to a first aid station and explain to the receptionist I want to be checked for the Coronavirus. Terrified, she immediately runs away and disappears, after a while, a male nurse wearing a mask appears and addresses me from a safe distance, “You have to go to a hospital and you must wear a mask,” he calls out. I buy a packet of masks at a pharmacy and drive off to the local hospital. The two guards at the entrance of the hospital are built like boxers with tattoos displayed on their arms.
“Why are you wearing a mask?” one of them asks. When I clarify the reason, he says, “Don’t enter the hospital, wait here.”
They both rapidly retreat into the hospital like frightened rabbits. After a short while, a female doctor and her assistant, both wearing masks turn up. The doctor looks too young for her job, her untidy hair is scooped back in a low ponytail. She professionally looks at me as I explain why I’ve come.
“Please accompany me to the parking lot outside so you don’t contaminate the hospital,” she said.
In the parking lot, she commands, “Lift your sweater.”
The nurse hovers nervously nearby with knitted brows. The doctor examines my chest and then the nurse takes a sample of my blood and a saliva. I stand there feeling gloomy. Cold rain begins to sprinkle on my face and exposed upper body so that drops of water trickle down me. Coldness creeps over my body and I begin to tremble. Soon my ordeal is over and the doctor notifies me, “You must go home and stay there for the next two weeks.”
A few days later my wife also comes down with flu’ like symptoms. Since I don’t want her to go alone I accompany her to the hospital where once again we are subjected to the same behavior, we feel as if we have the plague.
Arriving back home I spend my days in bed curled up in front of the television. Time flows enormously slowly like wet cement. After two weeks of self-imprisonment, we are both feeling better and we return to our places of work. Our co-workers are unnerved by our presence and keep their distance from us.
Now a few months later I can see the funny side of events, with everyone running for their lives wherever we went, but at the time it felt dreadful. Since the Coronvirus has become an epidemic the national health in Israel has become much more efficient. They send paramedics in protective clothing to visit prospective Coronavirus victims in their homes to take saliva and blood tests. In the meantime, the world waits in anticipation for a vaccination to be discovered.
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