My phone rang, and its screen showed me a number I didn’t recognise. I picked it up and was greeted by a sweet, husky voice from the other side. She said she was from the Danish Health Authority.
She was speaking Danish, so I had to intervene to ask her to speak English. She responded positively. The lady then continued the conversation with, “Did you take a COVID-19 test yesterday at the airport?” to which I answered with, “Yes, I did.“
“Unfortunately, the result is positive,” the lady calmly delivered, “You have the virus.”
It took me a few seconds before the news sinked in. There was a pause. A silence.
“Wow… This… This is surprising,” I sluggishly replied.
The Day-0, Monday January 11th, was the day I received the news on the call . It was my 2nd day in Denmark in 2021; the flight and the COVID test were on the 10th. It was my first day of being back at work.
“Can you tell me when I presumably caught the disease? Did it happen during the flight?” I asked the lady curiously.
“You didn’t catch it on the flight. The virus needed some time, before it could finally have enough load in your throat or nose,” she took a brief pause, “It typically takes 3-4 days until you start showing symptoms and be tested positive.“
“I’m sure you got it before you flew,” she delivered the killing blow.
“Oh… shit…” I mumbled softly.
She could have been right. My test date in Denmark was on Sunday, January 10th, and the infection date could have been the Thursday, January 7th, or the day after: Friday the 8th.
I was surprised. I was caught off guard. I thought I had been careful enough. I wore mask in public places. I regularly disinfected my hands. I kept my physical distance from others. I did limit my social activities.
Also, during my 4 weeks back home, I tested myself 5 times to ensure that I stayed negative. All tests resulted negative.
However, in retrospect, I could have been not that careful. I did meet some of my friends in public areas. I did take off my mask longer than necessary when eating and drinking publicly, sometimes. Also, there were times when I may have forgotten to disinfect my hands, before touching my face.
What the infection needed were just those the small lapses in judgement. I definitely was paying the price.
Soon I accepted the situation as it was — I didn’t dwell on “coulda shoulda woulda” too long. I regained my composure, surprisingly, sooner than I thought I would.
I guess reading books about stoicism, and this particular book called The Power of Now, really helped. Thanks, Eckhart Tolle!
An Unpleasant Surprise
The lady then proceeded to ask which flight and airline I was on. She also asked where I was sitting in both of the flight. She also instructed me to send her my boarding pass to be verified — she had to have needed it to inform the other passengers I was sitting close to.
I happily obliged.
As the conversation went to a pause, I intercepted again, “Hang on, I have another question for you.”
Then I described my situation, “I am currently staying in an AirBnB until Friday, but I live in a shared apartment, with 3 people. There’s only a single kitchen and restroom.”
“I’m not sure (a) I can fully ensure that I will leave no virus trace when I’m using the common areas, and (b) they will be happy if I self-isolate there. Is it possible for me to be in the government-provided isolation centers?” I asked.
“Well. There may be some available rooms at one of our self-isolation hotels. Please call this number: 33 66 33 00,” she switfly replied.
Yes, the Danish government provides isolation stay for Copenhagen citizens — see the details here.
After the call ended, some anxiety came back in.
And it was not about the possible pain and inconveniences. I was more worried about my family and friends. I could have infected them unknowingly during my last days at home. And if they were infected, that would have been on me.
And that’s the scary part about COVID-19, that many other coronavirus (like the flu virus) doesn’t have. If you are infected, you can be contagious before knowing that you are infected. You think you’re okay but you’re not. You put people at risk while being ignorant about it.
There’s a comprehensive article about the virology about COVID-19 that I really recommend reading.
Knowing that became anxious, I tried to calm down again. Once I calmed down, I immediately notified the friends whom I met on the suspected infection days. I urged them to take an antigen test. They fortunately agreed — it’s not free nor cheap for a mid-class Indonesian to do it.
Following that, I asked the same to my parents. I dropped the bomb on them. However, to my pleasant surprise, their first reaction was, “Are you okay? Where are you staying? How are you going to take care of yourself?”
They. Were. So. Selfless. 🥺
Getting the Room
I called the Kommune’s COVID-19 hotline number afterwards. The one whom I was talking to was a guy this time. He sounded very friendly, and was very helpful.
“Hej! I’ve been told by the Danish Health Authority to call this number,” I said as I initiated the call.
“I was tested positive for COVID-19, and I need a room to self-isolate because I live with 3 flatmates. It will be hard for me to not accidentally infect them. Can you help me?“
“Yes, of course! What’s your CPR number?” He cheerfully answered. I gave him mine.
CPR number is the Danish resident/citizen ID number.
“You’re in luck. There’s a room available at Copenhagen Star Hotel. Would you like to check in today?” It took him a minute, but he responded positively.
“No, I don’t think I can do that today… but can I check in tomorrow night? I need to work during the day.“
“That’s alright. Let me inform the hotel,” he said before we discussed more details about the stay.
I looked up the hotel on Google Maps afterwards. It was relatively close to my AirBnB — around 15 mins of walking. I didn’t need to grab a taxi or be in a public transport — that was a very good thing to know!
As I closed the phone call, I resumed my work day. I’m not quite sure if it was an effective day. I know that my thoughts were flying elsewhere many times. The day just flew by.
Curious know how it went afterwards? I am still writing the next part of the article, which is going to cover my experience in the hotel and the symptoms I had. Come back to this blog in 2 weeks. I promise I will have it complete by then!
Update: I failed to deliver the article in 2 weeks. I turned out to be a month. But here’s the link: My COVID-19 Experience in A Danish Isolation Hotel