Covering coronavirus, then living in isolation: Reporter's Notebook

Objectively two weeks "home alone" doesn’t sound that terrible.

Objectively two weeks "home alone" doesn't sound that terrible. Like the pint-sized hero in the Yuletide classic movie, think of all the things you could do if you were on your own?

Having reported on the new coronavirus outbreak since January, quarantine of some sort seemed like an increasingly likely prospect. In fact, watching this disease grow and spread across Asia, I became convinced a number of things seemed likely to happen. First, that this virus could sweep the globe, spreading from East to West and that eventually, most of us would know what it was like to live with COVID-19 in our countries, if not our communities.

And secondly, that we would have to change our daily routines, in some cases quite radically. Our personal hygiene routines would certainly need to tighten, our work and travel arrangements would be curtailed, and in the face of a highly contagious and very sociable disease, we would have to become more, well, antisocial.

But it was not until we were given the assignment to go into the heart of the outbreak in South Korea that the prospect of quarantine looked unavoidable. Although we only spent 24 hours in the city of Daegu, the British government guidelines are unequivocal: If you have been to one of the hotspots, then you should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Think of all the things you could do -- reading, writing, studying, watching, listening. All the things you never normally have time to do, right?

Wrong.

I am now convinced that there is some unwritten mathematical equation or scientific law that proves an inverse relationship between time and achievement. The more of one we have, the less of the other we accomplish, and vice versa.

The other fallacy is that peace and quiet will be a welcome relief from the incessant noise of 24/7 modern life. Again, I can report this is also wrong.

It is an unusual and sometimes lonely sensation being entirely on your own. When is the last time any of us did it for more than a few hours? It is also sometimes claustrophobic not being able to just step outside the front door, although the windows and the passing street are a welcome break to the four walls.

And the silence can be uncomfortable. I have taken to listening to the timbre of the street below; the roar and splash of traffic passing along rain-soaked roads and the hurried and harried rush-hour pedestrians, the kids late for school, the pensioners with time to talk. It is surprising what you do hear when there's nothing to listen to.

My advice? A smartphone and FaceTime are a lifeline to the world outside. A good stock of fresh and frozen food and some treats besides. Family support is all.

My wife has been on the other end of the phone every step of the way. My three sons, Alfie, Charlie and Jack, have found the whole thing amusing. They've rotated between joking about my "'Shining' situation" to offering advice to pass the time, "Finally play 'Red Dead Redemption.'"

I ignored the suggestion from Alfie to learn how to code. I've read, watched the news, considered being a digital cowboy for a week like Jack suggested and watched the news some more.

I confess that most of my time has actually been spent doing aimless laps around my single room and reading, watching and listening incessantly to the news. And most of it is about the virus. In the two weeks I will have spent in confinement, it has truly landed here in Britain and there in America, and I read of hand-washing, face-masks, shortages, anxiety and quarantine.

It really is not that bad. I am struck by the extent to which the only way of containing or limiting the spread of this virus is by acting responsibly and in the interests of the community, colleagues, family and lastly, ourselves.

In two weeks the world will not have ended.

But it will have changed.