Academic Hugh Mason realised last Monday that he had lost his sense of smell.
“My wife was peeling an orange and I thought, that’s weird, I can’t smell it,” the 53-year-old adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Engineering told The Straits Times last Saturday.
Professor Mason said he had read reports online that Covid-19 could be associated with a loss of the sense of smell, in certain cases.
So he consulted his doctor, who sent him to be tested for the coronavirus last Thursday.
He then returned home and self-isolated while waiting for the results. The next day, he received a call asking him to return for further tests. These came back positive for Covid-19, and he was warded at Singapore General Hospital last Friday.
Prof Mason said that around March 10, he had come down with a cold, which had developed into a fever by March 22.
His 50-year-old wife also tested positive for the virus last Saturday and is isolated at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
Their 13-year-old son is currently self-isolating at home with the family’s domestic helper.
“He’s fine, he’ll probably be playing video games at home all day now that there’s no one to stop him,” said Prof Mason with a laugh.
He added that he did not know where he might have caught the virus. “The last time I was out of the country was Jan 21. That’s a long time ago, so I don’t think I brought it back from the United Kingdom with me,” said Prof Mason, a British citizen who has been a permanent resident here since 2013.
Despite a daunting isolation period ahead of him and a lengthy separation from his loved ones, Prof Mason is grateful for many things.
He said: “There’s enormous politicisation (of this healthcare crisis) in the UK. I realise there is scarcity (of medical resources) because of appallingly bad management, there’s scarcity and fear, and it brings out the worst in people.
“(In Singapore) we still have scarce resources, but they are being used very, very wisely. That means help is available for people who need it when they need it. I feel extremely lucky to be here.”
He added: “It’s been a very reflective time for me, being alone. I feel incredibly grateful… I realise that my family and other families here are being looked after by this system and it’s taking care of our lives.
“I want to smell the air, that green smell, again… It’s very odd to be in a room that I can’t leave, but I know this is what’s keeping us all safe.”
In the meantime, he has been keeping busy chatting with friends, writing and doing research for a business he is planning to start.
Prof Mason said his sense of smell has yet to return, but his condition has otherwise improved, leaving him with just a mild cough: “There is some uncertainty, but I know I couldn’t be in a better place.”
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