'My wife’s face went white. A local who attended last week’s wedding had coronavirus'
It was accepting we had finally lost control that hit us the hardest.
Ten days into what was supposed to be the dream honeymoon to the South African metropolis of Cape Town, my wife and I were met with unexpected news; we must enter quarantine.
Our honeymoon was scheduled to coincide with my wife’s friend’s wedding, the unwitting scene of our brush with coronavirus.
On Wednesday evening, we were sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, overlooking the eerily quiet beaches of Camps Bay.
In fear of the pandemic, we brought our return flights forward to the following day.
Escape was confirmed, or so we thought.
The crashing of waves against the beach’s rocks below was suddenly pierced by the sound of my wife’s phone ringing.
It seemed ominous. My wife’s face went white. A local who attended last week’s wedding had coronavirus.
Any semblance of control had been snatched from us by the tentacles of this dangerous, yet invisible virus.
Quarantine awaited. During our first week in South Africa, people were relaxed. The virus was a world away, a distant storm that offered little threat.
South Africa only had a handful of cases. It seemed under control. By week two, things changed. On the same day as Lion’s Head, one of the hills which dominates the skyline of Cape Town, caught fire, Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, took to the nation’s airwaves.
He announced a series of measures to halt the spread of coronavirus in his country.South Africa’s attention to coronavirus caught ablaze - the face masks and hand sanitizers of Europe and Asia were now everywhere. The panic had caught up with us. It was time to return home.
Little did we know the virus had singed our plan to leave South Africa.
Looking back, the wedding was perfect. The stunning location, a Western Cape winery set against a mountainous backdrop, was matched by everyone’s shared love for the bride and groom.
The subsequent news that a friend in attendance had tested positive for COVID-19 was a bolt from the blue. Nothing could ruin that day, but it meant remaining in a foreign land at a time most would wish to be home.
Many Irish nationals attended the wedding. The majority of them are home, seven days into the Irish government’s recommended two week-long period of self-isolation.
Around ten of us remain in South Africa. We now join them in isolation, though 14,000km away. No Irish national in attendance at the wedding has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
When that fateful phone call came on Wednesday, we were advised to stay put. The local government confirmed our self-isolation the following morning.
With our fates now sealed, selfish thoughts of fleeing on a plane raced through my mind. Our route to freedom was leaving soon. Get home, I thought, back to my bolthole in the Wicklow hills.
I can self-isolate there for a fortnight - armed with home comforts like Barry’s Tea and biscuits. No one else needed to know. But then came the realization; what if I’m carrying the virus?
What if I spread it and others are hospitalized? Those selfish thoughts dissipated. We entered self-isolation. We feel like the lucky ones, others who have travelled abroad haven’t been so lucky.
Officials here are patient and have offered us reassurance that we will soon return home. Many of us have also joined together, setting up camp in a rented house near Lion’s Head.
From ordering a small tub of Kerry Gold butter during our online quarantine food shop, to watching The Late Late Show on RTE, we are doing our utmost to close the chasm that separates us from Ireland, the place we all dearly wish to be. Our decision is a small action, but one that we hope will help combat the spread of this vicious virus. For the first time in 72 hours, we feel like we have regained control.