healthHealth and Medicine

A British Teen Has Woken From A Coma, Unaware Of The COVID-19 Pandemic


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockFeb 3 2021, 12:59 UTC

NHS key workers wave from windows of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as crowds cheer during the COVID-19 pandemic in Chelsea, London, May 14, 2020. Image credit: Guy William/

A British teenager is starting to recover from a 10-month coma with seemingly no knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic that shook the world around him, despite having been infected with the virus twice.

As reported by the Guardian, 19-year-old Joseph Flavill was hit by a car while walking in Staffordshire in the UK on March 1, 2020, when less than 40 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the country. He was left with a traumatic brain injury that left him in a state of unconsciousness for months. During this time, COVID-19 took over the world, and tens of millions of people became infected with the virus, including Joseph, who reportedly caught the infection twice while in hospital.


He has now reportedly regained consciousness and is starting to show some promising signs of recovery, such as answering yes and no through blinking and following basic commands. But how do catch someone up with the last year? 

“He won’t know anything about the pandemic as he’s been asleep for 10 months. His awareness is starting to improve now but we just don’t know what he knows,” his aunt, Sally Flavill Smith, told the Guardian.

“I just don’t know where to start with it. A year ago if someone had told me what was going to happen over the last year, I don’t think I would have believed it. I’ve got no idea how Joseph’s going to come to understand what we’ve all been through.”

His family has set up a campaign called Joseph’s Journey, which has raised over £32,000 to support the teenager in his long-term recovery. Due to COVID restrictions, only his mother has been allowed to see him so far and had to be socially distanced and wear full PPE.


"I think that was really challenging because from Joseph's point of view, you've got someone who's not close to you, who's wearing all that PPE and obviously not aware that we're in the middle of a pandemic,” his aunt said, speaking to Sky News.

In the first stage of the pandemic, the world had a fair few groups of people who were unaware of COVID-19. In March 2020, it was reported that many mariners aboard nuclear-armed submarines were kept unaware of the pandemic to avoid undermining their morale and keep them focused on their task. Officials working for the United Nations migration program also said they had come across many Ethiopian migrants who were unaware of the pandemic as late as June 2020.

Also in March, producers of the reality TV show Big Brother in Germany were left with the conundrum of whether to tell their contestants about the pandemic in the outside world. Eventually, the housemates were told live on-air and, after being reassured that their loved ones were OK, they decided to stay in the house. After all, an isolated house cut off from the rest of the world was the ideal quarantine situation.

[H/T: The Guardian]

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