Two survivors of COVID-19 joined Euronews for a special discussion about their battle with the disease.
Jess Marchbank, from Devon, UK, and Matt Dockray, from London, joined Euronews host Isabelle Kumar.
We also spoke to Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto, who put what Jess and Matt were telling us into a medical context.
Jess Marchbank and Matt Dockray
How are you feeling?
“I have have had some sort of relapse, I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Jess told Euronews.
“The severe lethargy is back, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, the headaches, the sore throat, just feeling a bit rubbish.
“I thought I was over it, I think I’m quite downhearted as well because I thought I’d had it, I’d survived, I got better but now I’m feeling a bit rubbish again and struggling.”
Matt said: “There is no defining proof whether you can catch this again or not. I started almost like the start of a cold again, tickly throat, bunged up nose and a headache.
“And the first thing you think if is: this is exactly how it started before. But it could be hay fever, changing weather or anything else. But it’s never too far from your mind that it could come back again so you’re always on edge.”
What worries you about lockdown easing?
“We don’t know enough about the virus to say we’ve beaten it, especially here in Devon,” said Jess.
“We’ve been so blessed because there haven’t been that many cases so far [here]. But is that because we haven’t hit the peak yet or that we’ve been really, it started off higher up the country and then we locked down so we missed it a bit?
“I just think we’re being a bit too premature on saying we’re nearly there. My biggest fear is that if we relax these rules and regulations that we’re going to put all our families, friends and loved ones at risk. And I don’t want to do that.”
Matt said: “Well we’re basing this on statistics and a bit of unknown science and opinion.
“We have to wait for every country’s government to make that right decision but in the meantime, people are getting bored, they want to get back to work, financial burdens are building up. I get that these are huge frustrations on any day that would push you to kick in and survive but, as Jess said, we’re sat her lucky whereas other people aren’t. This isn’t over, this doesn’t just go away, we haven’t beaten it.
“We haven’t reached a peak like in most countries so when we lift lockdown, some people are still going to die, someone is still going to get this virus. That statistic is someone, someone will die from this virus so why not do what we can to minimise that rather than trying to get the economy back on track.”
What was the worst symptom you had to deal with?
“For me, the number one thing was the cough,” said Matt.
“It’s an unproductive cough so usually when you have a cold you cough mucus, with this, nothing comes up. So it is a constant barrage of coughing and then it comes to a point where you’re body tries to be sick and hack something up that’s not there. So when you’re struggling for breath and trying to get every breath in you’re coughing at the same time. Your cough robs you of every bit of oxygen that your body is fighting for and you can’t control it.
Jess said: “For me, it’s definitely the fatigue. I do something for 5 minutes, make a cup of tea, or try and get the kids dressed and then am out for the day.
“I am really struggling at the moment with the tiredness. I’ve been told not to rest too much because I may be at risk of a pulmonary embolism.
“It’s also hard with the kids because I was in the hospital and they couldn’t touch me or hug me and now I have to tell them: ‘Yes I am better but I need five minutes or ask daddy for this, so the tiredness is difficult’.
“I have complained about sleep deprivation because of the kids but this is something else, it’s nuts.”
What would your final message be to people as the UK is looking to ease the lockdown?
“Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives,” Jess said.
“I know you’re missing work, we’ll all missing that money, I’ll just keep saying this: debt over death.”
“Yes we can see the sunshine and we want the barbecues but don’t be silly. It’s really not worth risking one of your loved ones lives for a barbecue. Hugs and celebrations they can wait, they will be even bigger and better, so just wait.”
Matt said: “This does cost lives. Don’t leave this to statistics ar chance.
“The economies will come back, life will come back, it’s not worth yourself or your loved ones. At the end of the day, as jess said, there is nothing worse than death so we can resolve everything else, we can get stronger, we can get better.”
Dr Isaac Bogoch
What about these blood clots, are these symptoms that you’ve heard of when treating patients?
“These symptoms are quite rare but we’ve heard of blood clots,” said Dr Bogoch.
“We’ve heard of blood clots in the brain, those are strokes; blood clots in the lungs that’s called an embolism and we’ve even heard of tiny tiny ones in vessels that travel to the skin. And many people may have heard of this phenomenon called ‘COVID toes’.
“So this can be a very rare manifestation but as the others have said we’ve only known about this infection for five months so there is a lot more that we are learning about it and we have to be humble and learn about this as we through it.”
What about second flare-ups like Matt and Jess are feeling, can that happen?
“So we have some people who have no symptoms, some who have very mild symptoms who don’t even know they have this infection,” said Dr Bogoch.
“And of course, we have the complete opposite end of the spectrum where sadly people are sick enough to go to intensive care units and sadly we know that many people succumb to this illness.
“For those on that end of the spectrum, it will take longer for them to fully recover. And of course, just like anything else, there are good days and bad days and if you think about this in terms of four- to seven-day increments, the general trend in most people is that they’re just going to get better and better until they regain their full function.”
What about the second wave of infection, can it be worse than the first?
Dr Bogoch said: “Yes, it can. During the Spanish influenza epidemic, some regions experienced the worst second phases.
“This depends on how a region acts and the policies they have toward COVID-19.”
Is it possible not to be immune, even after having the virus?
“If you have an infection and recover then you’re body produces antibodies and those create some degree of immunity,” said Dr Bogoch.
“The question is what degree of immunity and for how long. Most people in the scientific community do believe that there will be some degree of immunity for some period of time.
“Also, just because you get another test that doesn’t actually mean you’re reinfected or that this virus has somehow come back. We know that the PCR test can remain positive for quite a long period of time, someone can still test positive up to six weeks after initially testing positive.”