'I thought I just had a cold - it was a shock to learn I had the virus'

The man who tested positive and is now in isolation had been abroad, but not in Italy

Catherine Fegan

A man who tested positive for the coronavirus has described how people "emptied from the hallways" as he arrived at a hospital for treatment.

A man who tested positive for the coronavirus has described how people "emptied from the hallways" as he arrived at a hospital for treatment.

The man, who spoke to the Herald anonymously, is aged in his 50s and has no underlying medical issues.

He is from the west of the country and got the virus from contact with a couple who had been to Italy.

He was told on Monday he had tested positive, and is now being treated in a hospital isolation unit.

"It's all been very surreal," he said. "It's like something out of a movie. I never thought I would be caught up in it all."

Describing his experience of the virus as "like having a cold", the man said he had been visiting a European country, not Italy, when he met up with friends who had unknowingly already become infected.

He said one of his friends was under the weather.

"He wasn't coughing or spluttering or anything like that, he was just feeling a bit achy," he said.

The man retuned to Ireland on March 1 and three days later got a call to say his friends had the coronavirus.

His initial reaction was one of "total shock".

"Even though we were all talking about the coronavirus while we were in each other's company, we never for a second thought that he actually had it," he said.

A few days later, the man himself began to feel the symptoms of the virus.

"At any other time I wouldn't think I was ill," he said.

"The symptoms were very mild for me, and that's not to downplay the seriousness of this.

"It's been nothing worse than a minor cold so far. I don't have a cough. I was just a little bit achy and I had a bit of a fever. I was on heightened alert, but otherwise I don't know if it would have bothered me at all."

He was tested for the virus on Saturday night after the HSE became aware of his symptoms.

"A paramedic arrived to the house in a full hazmat type suit," he said. "He was on his own.

"The ambulance service had called to say he was on his way and they told me what to prepare for, in terms of what he would be wearing, so I wouldn't be shocked.

"Obviously, some people would get a bit of a shock. He came to the door in the hazard suit, mask and goggles.

"It was a simple test, a throat swab and a nasal swab. He left and the swabs were sent up to Dublin for testing, so I had to wait for a phone call."

On Monday, he was told he had tested positive and an ambulance was sent to his home to take him to a hospital isolation unit.

"When I entered the isolation ward from the ambulance it was surreal," he said.

"The hallways empty of people as you're being brought through. I was wearing my mask and the paramedic from the ambulance was wearing his suit.

"You get to the doors and they're all double-locked.

"People are using their elbows to open doors. You're ushered into your room and then it's lockdown.

"I'm alone. I was monitored fairly closely for the first 24 hours. Tuesday's consultation was done by a doctor over the phone."