I can't smell the orange: NUS don tested positive for Covid-19 after losing sense of smell

Mr Hugh Mason in his isolation ward at the Singapore General Hospital on March 28, 2020. He said the last time he was out of the country was on Jan 21.
Mr Hugh Mason in his isolation ward at the Singapore General Hospital on March 28, 2020. He said the last time he was out of the country was on Jan 21.PHOTO: COURTESY OF HUGH MASON

SINGAPORE - Mr Hugh Mason realised on Monday (March 23) 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 told The Straits Times on Saturday.

Mr Mason, an adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Engineering, said that he had read reports online that Covid-19 could be associated with a loss of smell in certain cases.

So he consulted his doctor, who sent him to be tested for the coronavirus on Thursday.

Mr Mason 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 and he was warded for Covid-19 at SGH on Friday.

Mr Mason said that he had already come down with a cold around March 10 that had turned into fever by March 22.

His 50-year-old wife also tested positive for the virus on 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 Mr 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 Mr Mason, a UK 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, Mr 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're 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 that this is what's keeping us all safe," he said.

In the meantime, he has been keeping busy chatting with friends, writing and doing research for a business he is planning to start.

Mr Mason said that his sense of smell has yet to return, but his condition has otherwise improved, leaving him with just a mild cough.

He said: "There is some uncertainty, but I know I couldn't be in a better place."