Henry McDonald: I have no sympathy for the unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic

To paraphrase the late, great columnist/raconteur Jeffrey Bernard back in April 2018 “I landed the Spring Double”.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 2:33 am
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 2:55 am
Supporters of Serbia's Novak Djokovic yesterday dance and sing outside the Park Hotel, used as an immigration detention hotel where Djokovic is confined in Melbourne, Australia, (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

In Bernard’s case it was a double dose of pleurisy and pneumonia that floored him; in mine three years ago, it was a dual diagnosis of a congenital heart defect and stomach cancer.

So, when the dreaded virus arrived on our shores at the end of 2019, I was slotted into that cohort of the population labelled “vulnerable.”

Which meant attempting at all costs to fun and liberty to escape catching Covid-19.

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Australian Open defending champion, Serbia's Novak Djokovic at an Australian Border Force desk on his arrival at Melbourne Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Henry McDonald writes: "Millions of others in Oz have stoically put up with the emergency health measures in their country for nearly two years. Why should the world’s greatest tennis player be treated any different from anyone else?" (AP Photo)

As someone with a compromised immune system, on eight tablets per day and only ten per cent of my stomach left after life-saving surgery (hopefully) I was advised by my heart and oncology consultants to avoid any exposure to the pandemic.

For nearly two years I swerved Coronavirus by adhering strictly to lockdown rules, wearing a mask when out, isolating, social distancing etc.

When the welcome vaccines arrived, I readily embraced them and am now tripled jabbed. And if a fourth vaccine is offered and deemed essential to combat further spread of the disease, I will happily stick out my arm and get jagged.

Despite all these precautions and the vaccinations, I finally succumbed to the virus over the New Year albeit of the Omicron variety.

After emerging from seven days of pandemic purdah I can report that this strain was not as debilitating as the previous ones that have killed more than a million people around the world while seriously affecting the health of millions of others.

The infection began with a burst of chills spreading all over the body leaving my frame shaking slightly for 24 hours.

Then my throat started to scratch and ache while my nose ran repeatedly for under a week.

Yet that was it.

The worst symptoms of the infection petered out within a couple of days and the whole experience felt like a bad case of a winter cold not even flu.

I have no doubt that having the booster jab back in November helped me quickly get over the Omicron virus.

It was a mixed picture inside our bubble at home in Belfast: my sister tested negative throughout while her partner also caught the virus.

His symptoms were even milder than mine and he too was triple vaccinated ahead of Omicron’s arrival.

As for the source of our infections there were a host of potential viral triggers ranging from one friend who is unvaccinated to the disturbingly high number of people (mainly teenagers) unmasked on a Glider journey from my partner’s house in Ballyhackamore into the city centre just after Christmas.

Meanwhile my eldest daughter was felled by the virus shortly after Boxing Day in Australia; her younger sister had been one of the early casualties of the first coronavirus wave which engulfed her Glasgow University student halls of residence back in the autumn of 2020.

Regarding the older daughter it is worth pointing out that she and her friends were caught in one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world in Melbourne for months on end.

Despite the tight strictures on their lives in that shut down ‘Down Under’ they regarded it as necessary. They endured. They got through.

This is why I have no sympathy for Novak Djokovic who is at the time of writing in lockdown in a government run hostel in Australia.

He refuses to get vaccinated and is all over social media preaching against the vaccination programmes saving lives across the planet.

Millions of others in Oz have stoically put up with the emergency health measures in their country for nearly two years. Why should the world’s greatest tennis player be treated any different from anyone else?!

The longer the Australian government stand firm on the issue the more I shall admire them.

One of the by-products of the pandemic and lockdown has been my own small act of solidarity with Australia, a nation that thousands of us in this part of the world have strong family connections with.

During these years of the plague, I fell in love again with Aussie wine. I started searching wine merchants and supermarket shelves for Australian vino not just because I appreciate a decent Shiraz or robust Cabernet from down there. Australian wine makers have been one of the targets of a Chinese boycott after Canberra simply dared to ask for an independent international inquiry into how the virus originated in Wuhan.

The dictatorship in Beijing was miffed that Australia even questioned their official narrative about how Covid-19 was unleashed on the world. China under Mr Xi’s tyrannical rule then imposed sanctions on Aussie exports including wine as a punishment for speaking out of turn. Anyone enraged at the cover up in Wuhan and the bullying behaviour of Beijing should support Australia while out shopping so long as that boycott continues.

As I say small acts of solidarity but necessary ones ... a bit like getting vaccinated here in Northern Ireland if not for yourself then for the lives of others.

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