Corona and isolation: full dose of personal responsibility

Our author gets Corona for the third time. This time there are no more binding rules – and she has to go to an apartment viewing.

Staying at home can be nice – if there is a home Photo: T. Seeliger/snapshot

February 2023: Actually, the date should have been a warning to me. Whether fate, coincidence or just a mean thing: So far I have been infected with Corona every February. So this year, too: after a long time, a wonderfully exuberant birthday party with a lot of closeness while dancing and refueling together on the couch, shared drinks and cigarettes turned out to be a super spreader party after the weekend, as it is in the book.

It’s my third infection. When the second line appears on the tester, I feel the same panic as the last two times. As a healthy student, it’s not the illness, but the prospect of at least a week of isolation in my shared room that bothers me. I can deal with a sore throat and fever, but only very badly with loneliness.

A friend sent me a link to the official corona regulations of the city of Berlin. There I read in black and white what I actually knew anyway:

“In view of the significantly declining number of cases, an overload of the health care system or the critical infrastructure due to the pandemic is currently not to be expected. For this reason, no Berlin-specific corona measures have been in effect since February 13, 2023. The Berlin Corona Ordinance is no longer in force.”

Go for a walk once a day

In 2021 I was questioned by the health department about all possible contact persons and sent to quarantine with immediate effect at the place where I was. In 2022 after a positive self-test I stayed at home without being asked, but as a matter of course and only dared to do it once a day for a walk outside.

And how do I behave in 2023? It seems that this decision is entirely up to me. After three years of great societal concern about the invisible pathogens, I could now go to work, shop or visit friends completely free of sanctions and not even have to disclose that I have been infected. But apart from the official rules: Which way of dealing with a corona infection is morally correct, responsible and adult?

This decision overwhelms me. That’s why I inform my social environment first and I’m curious about the reactions. While most of the people around me found the official regulations slightly exaggerated, this time it’s the other way around: After delivering the message, my roommates flee to their partners, my doctor continues to write me sick on the phone, of course, and my friends too :innen limit themselves to providing me with encouraging calls. It seems as if my personal responsibility and dealing with the dilemma of not wanting to infect anyone, but also not spending another week of my life in isolation with as few symptoms as possible, was taken from me from the outside.

If there weren’t another problem that I have to face all by myself: I’m desperately looking for an apartment and have less than two weeks until I have to move out of my current room. As the proud owner of a small campervan, I haven’t let myself be stressed for a long time. If I haven’t found a suitable place to stay by the end of the month, I probably think extremely naively, I could just switch back and forth between my van and friends’ sofas for a while. However, a leak in the roof of my car thwarts this idea.

Potential homelessness

The search actually went pretty well. Some potential new roommates had contacted me in response to my countless inquiries, so I had made three viewing appointments for the next few days. So I am no longer just faced with the dilemma of loneliness vs. not wanting to infect anyone, but also with the still challenging consideration of not wanting to infect anyone and the fear of potential homelessness. Two days after my first positive test, I feel physically fit, mentally much more solitary and increasingly worried about my future living situation. So I throw in a painkiller, spray my nose and set off on what looks like a very promising flat-sharing tour.

Although I feel slightly guilty and decide not to tell anyone about my infectious trip, I find that the basic human need for a tight roof over our heads justifies my selfish actions. A decision that I bitterly regret shortly after my arrival. In Berlin, a city with more than three million inhabitants, I am presented with the vacant room of a new work colleague. I can’t believe my bad luck and start sweating – not because of Corona, but because of nervousness. The conversation with the nice person who is considering taking me in is catastrophic. I still get that I find him very likeable, but apart from that I don’t take in anything of what he tells me about himself. A thousand fears and questions run through my head: Will my work colleague find out that I was here? Does he actually know who I am? After all, so far we’ve only seen each other from afar… Does he know that I’m on sick leave because of Corona? Will my employer find out about my actions? Am I going to get fired?

Well, getting fired, I soon realize that I can’t, after all I don’t officially break any rules. But if not fired, my colleagues will despise me and I will have to leave voluntarily. Will I infect my counterpart and will he get Long Covid? The wheel in my head is turning faster and faster and my worries are getting out of hand. I just want to get out of here and make up an unconvincing excuse as to why I have to leave very soon. The main thing is that I’m gone before my colleague gets home. However, this wish is not fulfilled and we practically push each other in hand. My social skills are gone. I just murmur a soft “Hello”, don’t look him in the eye and leave the apartment with open shoes, which I certainly won’t move into after this performance.

After this experience, I don’t have any corona symptoms, but I do have clear stress symptoms. I sleep badly, have nightmares that are no longer tangible and still feel overwhelmed the next morning. Being lonely and locked up really wasn’t fun with my last two infections, but I can’t say whether I’ll be better this time with the moral burden on my shoulders.

I’ve now tested negative again. I have not found a conclusive answer to the question of how to behave sensibly and responsibly in the event of a corona infection in 2023.

Nevertheless, I am glad that this time I had to deal with it myself and was able to make my own decisions together with those around me. I would no longer hide my infection, even from potential roommates in the event of an acute housing shortage. But I still go to cozy parties.