WE THOUGHT terrorists were the worst. Then came Covid, that virus that plays in your mind and exaggerates everything.

I wonder how many have received that texted message from safedavao QR code that starts with: “Maayong adlaw (your name).”

I’m telling you, there is no “maayo” (good) about that “adlaw” (day) when you get that text.

I’ve been tagged as “F2/F3” for being in the vicinity of someone I do not know in a place where we had our QR codes scanned. Mine was a long period covered: From May 21, 07:01 p.m. to May 22 03:28 p.m., two of four times I went in and out in that place and had my QR code scanned.

What started as a quiet weekend became fear-filled days made worse by the agony of waiting.

I was among those turned away after waiting the whole morning in line for the free drive-thru swab at the Crocodile Park last Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the day after I received the message. I was the one who told our newsroom to check out what’s happening because the line was already out there at Diversion Road, while we were somewhere in the middle, and it wasn’t moving for hours.

We took solace in the fact that the guy at the swabbing center was amiable (for as long as you approach them amiably), and gave us assured slots with signed forms for Saturday, May 29.

Four days. Four days of torturous waiting where every itchy throat and tummy rumble becomes a major symptom in your mind. On ordinary days, these are just an itchy throat that you’d “ehem” away, and the precedent to your daily visit to the bathroom. But when you’re an F2/F3 or worse F1 Covid contact, then these become major sources of fear.

I thought I was willing to wait... but by Wednesday, the uncertainty and fear was already getting at me. I had to know. So I brought my nephew with me for a paid swab at a private facility Thursday afternoon and got our negative results by Friday noon.

To say that it was a big relief cannot describe the level of relief you get upon seeing the emailed test result. The most beautiful words you can ever read these days are: “SARS-COV-2 VIRAL RNA - NOT DETECTED.” I’m not joking. Suddenly, you are free to “ehem” as many times as you want, and yes, you can now go to your senior citizen mom to raid her kitchen. (We live in the same neighborhood with just delivery guys as regular visitors so we’re practically one household).

While savoring mom’s food, I remember that two friends are still battling the virus in different hospitals in different cities and that there are over 1,300 active cases in Davao City as the city is battling a new surge.

I got a reprieve. But the battle isn’t over. In fact, there is a greater need for vigilance because the numbers are growing and like that quiet weekend with family... for as long as there are other people around, we can never be sure if there’s a carrier among them. And all these play in your mind and are exaggerated by fear. saestremera@gmail.com