For prevention and management of COVID-19, physical distancing is important, not social distancing. - Naveen
Day 1: When I reached the office I had a mild fever with throat pain. I've had tonsillitis issues since childhood, so I thought nothing of it and took medication accordingly. By the afternoon I was feeling very tired, and so I took the rest of the day off work and went home.
Day 2: I feel better today. No fever, but I still have throat pain, a cough and I am a little fatigued. My colleague messaged me to say he is not well with a fever and breathing problems. Alarm bells begin to ring as I realise we both made two field visits in the same vehicle just the other day. We both book in for a COVID-19 test in 2 days’ time.
Day 3: The throat pain has reduced considerably but the coughing continues.
Day 4: I complete the COVID-19 RT-PCR test, and begin physical distancing with family members. I should hopefully receive the test result tomorrow.
Day 5: At 6am my colleague called me to say that he is COVID-19 positive and plans for home quarantine. As of yet, I have not had my result, and so I apprehensively await my call. At 10am I receive a call from the COVID-19 District Helpline and they inform me that I am COVID-19 positive, and what my options are for quarantine. I decided to go to the COVID-19 centre for the quarantine period of 12 days. At midday an ambulance collected me along with 6 other COVID-19 patients, and took us to the COVID-19 quarantine centre.
From the moment we arrived at the centre, staff asked me us to wait until they are ready with PEP kits, paper work and other formalities. Within 10 minutes I was allowed to enter the centre and complete a screening (SPO2, Fever and Pulse), the required paper work, and then I was moved into an isolation room.
That evening I received the following medicine; HCQ 400 mg for 5 days, Vitamin C, D and Zinc and a homeopathic drug for 10 days.
On the same day a large sticker was placed outside my home that read ‘NOT TO VISIT DUE to COVID QUARANTINE’. My name was noted as the person who was infected, as was the number of my family members and those who were of old age.
For the next 12 days I would stay in the isolation centre, along with 120 other COVID-19 patients.
Life in a COVID-19 quarantine centre:
Thanks to a long corridor between isolation rooms and wards, patients are still able to interact whilst maintaining physical distance. Through this interaction I found that aside from receiving the positive test result telephonically, there is little to no information distributed such as testing during quarantine, government quarantine protocol, side effects of medicine, existing health issues, and what to expect post-COVID quarantine.
Despite the prison-like conditions of the COVID-19 quarantine centre, a sense of community was still able to shine through.
Health staff don’t provide proper responses to any queries raised about our RT-PCR test reports and the side effects of the medicine. This can be very frustrating. It was clear to see that isolation without proper information raised serious anxiety issues amongst many of the admitted patients. In particular, a 20-year old boy was considering suicide by jumping from the second floor. Patients require consoling, being able to openly talk about and consider their diagnosis and options they have going forward. This issue was exacerbated by family and friends sending exaggerated information about COVID-19 through mobile messaging apps.
It was also apparent that those with no symptoms struggled to understand why they had to stay in the centre for the required quarantine time of 10-12 days.
Managing children in a quarantine and physical distancing environment was challenging. Children under the age of 5 were accompanied by their mother who stayed with them for the duration of their isolation.
Despite the prison-like conditions of the COVID-19 quarantine centre, a sense of community was still able to shine through. Every evening, one of the patients who could sing and play guitar would perform for us and we would all stand around him and enjoy the music. It was a real pleasure against a looming backdrop of loneliness. There were also drawing materials distributed, and adults and children alike were asked to get creative and submit their artwork for a small internal competition. Little things like this were intrinsic to helping with the stress of isolation.
COVID-19 patients take part in the drawing competition at the quarantine centre
As an agency working with the oldest known infectious disease, leprosy, Lepra reacted quickly to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
As noted in Naveen's COVID-19 personal account, mental health is of the utmost importance during these uncertain times. It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lock down conditions have led to unforgiving experiences for many people, and particularly those that are already in vulnerable positions such as those with leprosy.
All 550 of our field staff have been working throughout the pandemic, with a continued focus on detection, treatment and follow-up of people affected by leprosy, particularly among the most neglected groups. You can read a personal account of the struggles to give communities adequate care and information from one of our Accredited Social Health Activist's here.