24.07.2024 - 002 20160813 095419

Individual fates in the pandemic


In my current work, there are always individual stories that stay in my mind.

I work in the field of pandemic control. One of the tasks of our department is to

  • to contact people who have tested positive by telephone,
  • go through a catalogue of questions with them and
  • at the end of the quarantine period (start and end of the prescribed quarantine), which then already has the character of a notification. We will then identify the contact persons and send them into quarantine if necessary.

We all hear about infection figures and incidences, it's all very abstract. Behind these figures are sometimes individual fates that are shocking and make me thoughtful and sad.

Personal details have been alienated to protect the privacy of the persons.


I speak to the 28-year-old's uncle. He has been lying in intensive care for days "with a tube in his throat" in an artificial deep sleep. Any previous illnesses? He had asthma as a child, otherwise he is healthy.

What happens next for him "is written in the stars", say the doctors.


The elderly lady is very upset. She has been living alone in her large flat since her husband died. She breathes quickly, the fear literally crawls out of her earpiece.

She is very overweight and has high blood pressure, so surely she will fall seriously ill? Then there's her age...

The phone call takes longer than would be necessary to collect the required data. I try to reassure her.

In the days that followed, I kept thinking about her, whether her symptoms had worsened?


The phone rings for so long that I want to hang up. A male voice answers, it sounds weak, I can hear the gentleman breathing heavily.

He is in hospital. Is he sure he wants to have this conversation? Yes, yes, I can. After a few questions, it becomes clear that he can't. Finally, I want to know which hospital he is in. It starts with F... or is it H? The ambulance picked him up from home last night, I can't remember the name of the hospital.

I call the clinics in Favoriten, Floridsdorf and Hietzing, then the other municipal hospitals, until I find him. With the help of the medical staff, I can close the case.


It's not until the evening that I reach the carer, who has obviously picked up his work mobile phone even though he's already off work. The young woman is fine, she has no symptoms. It's just that being locked up is very difficult for her and makes her aggressive. There are too few carers to enable all clients to exercise outside regularly under coronavirus conditions.

Isolation from the other residents is also not possible. She doesn't understand why she shouldn't leave her room or wear a mask outside.

How many flatmates are there? There are twelve of them in the accommodation unit and we are supposed to call them the next day to collect their details. As contact persons, they all have to go into quarantine too.


I reach the lady in the car, she is just about to drive to Hungary, where she lives. She's been working as a sports coach at a club in Vienna for three days - until a few minutes ago. No, she has no symptoms, she's fine.

I tell her that she now has to stay in Vienna and spend her quarantine period here. "Where am I supposed to live? I have no more accommodation here!" Her annoyance is only too understandable. My supervisor manages to organise accommodation for the lady.


1925 is the year of birth of this very sprightly-looking old gentleman. He has no symptoms, not really, apart from a little headache. He never has headaches otherwise.

What troubles him is the recent death of his wife. They were married for more than sixty years, and her loss feels like he's had his hand or foot taken away. He tells me about her, the marriage was very harmonious, they were "a good team". Yes, he has three children, but unfortunately they all live far away.

The flat is so empty without her, every day he wonders why he should even get up in the morning.

At some point, I manage to get all the information I need and want to say goodbye. Do we really have to end the call already? I still have to speak to other people on the phone, unfortunately!

But I can call him again, he'd be delighted, he says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.