I think I have coronavirus
Philip Fisher becomes his own case study as he reports on his own battle with what he believes to be coronavirus and offers a warning about its prevalence and potential impact on our businesses.
This unplanned article is being written from my sickbed at 4 a.m.
The original plan had been to publish a fully researched, hard-hitting analysis of the government and HMRC’s policy papers announcing their intention to attack the tax avoidance industry and tax advisers. That will have to wait. Although it does not necessarily bear directly on the world of accountancy, readers may well find a blow by blow account of this accountant’s battle with illness informative.
If nothing else, judging by those with whom I have been communicating in the last week, an awful lot more people have coronavirus than the numbers published by the powers that be. That should come as no surprise, given that the advice for those who have relatively mild symptoms is to take some headache tablets and wait for them to go away. No doctors, no NHS 111 and no test to determine the nature of the illness. Perhaps surprisingly, given the nature of the pandemic, there is not even an opportunity to register the possibility that someone might have been afflicted.
The day before...
Astonishingly, 36 hours ago I felt absolutely fine. Having been out for a long walk, I returned home, ate an early dinner and then was overcome by tiredness, retiring to bed not long after 7pm.
By the following morning, I had a splitting headache but no other symptoms and inevitably wondered whether this might be the dreaded virus. However, it didn’t seem that likely based on ubiquitous internet data. One cheering upside was that, following a week of effort and numerous increasingly desperate visits to supermarkets that may well have landed me in bed in the first place, I managed to lay hands on a couple of packs of paracetamol, which are now proving a lifesaver.
What should the sick be looking for? First, a fever, which appeared a few hours ago, judging by the state of my bedding which was completely drenched, along with the obligatory aches and pains. Unfortunately, my eBay thermometer has yet to materialise, so it is impossible to know my temperature.
It appears from my increasingly detailed research, not to mention an awful lot of time listening to the radio yesterday, that the real clincher is a persistent cough and shortness of breath. At this point, there is a cough that is not yet persistent and my lungs definitely feel restricted. The obvious conclusion is a fair possibility that I have COVID-19 and should isolate myself from the world until close of play next Monday.
Supplies and the British public
I am no stockpiler but luckily, have enough food to keep me going, especially as my appetite has disappeared.
What are the morals that accountants can draw from this case study? First, while I have no idea how I caught whatever this is, there is every chance that it was down to supermarket trips or possibly some fellow traveller a week or so on a crowded tube train. Astonishingly, trains are still crowded and building sites remain in operation, despite the fact that our favourite u-turning (revolving?) Prime Minister consistently claims that he is trying to lock down the country.
As someone who is nowhere near 70 and apparently in good health generally, I’m optimistic that this should be nothing more than a painful week or two. However, we must all spare a thought for older or infirm friends, relations and colleagues, who need to take the greatest care.
I know that the UK is supposed to have 8,000 victims out of a population of 70 million but based on my experience the odds are high that if you run an office with more than a few dozen people, one of them could already have the virus. Depending on when you eventually closed it down, they might well have conveyed it to several colleagues too, which could be bad news for morale and productivity.
The summer is already looking like a complete write-off unless some more serious steps are taken to close down everything bar essential shops, medical facilities and very little else. With serious and concerted efforts from politicians around the world, let us hope that this pernicious virus is conquered soon after that.