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Covid-19 catches up with me

First, a little PS from my previous blog post. A week later I returned back to my compound after work, and lo-and-behold, waiting on my doorstep was a Census Officer. Fortunately the compound had assigned one of the security guards to translate for her. Long story short, as I hadn’t completed a census for my current address, I needed to do so and so she filled it in electronically via a tablet as I answered all the questions again.  This took about 10 minutes and then off she went to find her next miscreant. A week later I received a phone call from someone who said they were from the General Authority for Statistics. He asked me to confirm if I had spoken to the census officer on the date she had doorstepped me.

Anyway, onto my covid story. Two weeks past on Friday I awoke with a sore throat, the first one in years, as in Saudi I generally don’t suffer from colds, sneezes and other winter ailments. I have a packet of NHS-issue lateral-flow test kits in Riyadh, and so took one. It showed negative. On Saturday morning I felt worse and took another self-test. This time it was positive. I went onto the Saudi Ministry of Health website to see what I should do, and I was advised to take an official PCR test. I could register through the “Sehaty” app at one of 4 drive-through centres in Riyadh, and so I booked a slot early on Sunday morning. Next I sent a message to my colleagues to alert them that I was likely to be Covid-positive and did not expect to be in work on Sunday.

I drove to the test centre which was about 20 minutes drive from my compound, and within 10 minutes was on my way again, having shown the scan code generated by the app on my phone, and received a swab up both nostrils. The result would be “within 24 hours”, and sure enough, 6 hours later, I received the following text message:

“Dear Owner of ID number ending with xxxx, your test conducted on 2022-06-12 shows that you have an active COVID-19 infection (Positive) based on laboratory testing. Kindly isolate yourself and adhere to self-isolation measures. Wishing you a speedy recovery. For more information, please call 937 or visit the following link: You can also view your result on Sehhaty application”.

So, that was me in solo lockdown. Next I had to confirm this to my work, and they requested a sick certificate. What sort of catch-22 is this? Government instructs me to go into hermitude, yet my work will not pay me sick leave unless I furnish a sickness certificate. What to do? Let’s have another rummage around the Sehaty app and see if there are any instructions. And, oh joy, yes, there it is, a Health Profile which contains a Medical Report which includes a Sick Leave certificate. Well, how sensible and efficient is that? This I could download and email to my HR department. The benefits of having accessible centralised records!

So a week at my apartment with the company of improving ‘flu symptoms and a small dog. A neighbour whom I contacted kindly agreed to buy in essential provisions so I was able to exist for the week. I slept a lot for the first few days and eventually my sleep pattern normalised again, but I did struggle to remember what day it was. I took the wee dog out 3 or 4 times a day for very short walks (toilet breaks), and stuck to the less-frequented paths around the inner edge of the compound near my unit and avoided anyone I saw approaching. It all felt very furtive and I am sure those who saw me must have thought I looked very dodgy.

By the end of the week I was feeling much better and contemplated returning to work. I contacted HR and they said just come back on Sunday, nothing else required.

My Tawakkalna app on my phone which shows my Covid-19 health status, and essential for getting into public buildings, public transport etc had changed its colour from the usual green to a poo-coloured brown status which was marked as “Infected”. This occurred on the Sunday after my test result came through. I did wonder if I needed to obtain a further PCR test to verify that I was again allowed into society. There did not seem to be clear advice on that. I phoned “937”, the Ministry of health helpline and they said that was not necessary, and if I felt well, I could just go to work. So the next Sunday I checked my Tawakkalna and it had changed back to a nice reassuring green colour.

I believe that my luck in having only minor symptoms was due to having had 4 vaccinations (KSA x 3, UK x 1) in the last 18 months or so. On the down side, I was unable to travel home for a long weekend to participate in Elaine’s birthday event. This is of course just a minor inconvenience compared to the trials, tribulations and losses that others have suffered through Covid, so I count myself to be fortunate.

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