Majority of people with coronavirus recover and are able to move on with their lives. Image Credit: Pexels

Dubai: It’s been 100 days of coronavirus and we’ve put together a long read story detailing the recoveries of coronavirus patients from the UAE and all over the world.

The majority of people with coronavirus recover and are able to move on with their lives. Find out, in detail, how these individuals from the UAE to India, to the UK recovered from coronavirus.

An Australian woman details her recovery in the UAE

-By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Senior Reporter

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Dubai: “I had no idea that the UAE had such excellent health care system and I feel the timely help I received at a UAE Hospital played a great role in helping me recover from COVID-19,” said Wendy Hocking, 55, an occupational therapist from Melbourne, Australia.

Happy, healthy and feeling positive after a 17-day stay in a negative pressure room at Prime Hospital, Dubai, Hocking who underwent four consecutive negative tests for COVID-19, was finally declared free of the virus and is now undergoing a 14-day quarantine at a hotel apartment, while her husband who subsequently tested positive, is still undergoing treatment at the same hospital.

Hocking shared her story with Gulf News because she wanted people to know there was hope and if one followed the protocols of testing, isolation and quarantine, it was possible to combat this pandemic.

My temperature was detected on the thermal scanner at the airport

On March 12, when the COVID-19 global pandemonium was just about unfolding, Hocking and her husband were flying back to Melbourne from their holiday in London after meeting family and had a three-day stopover in Dubai. “Then only China, Italy and Iran were on the news and we had no idea that UK was such a hotspot for the outbreak and since I suffer from travel sickness, we had pre-booked a three-day stopover in Dubai. Then there was no pre-boarding screening at Heathrow and we boarded the flight. En route, there was a lot of turbulence and I thought it was the travel sickness that was making me feel ill. I had a headache and felt very tired.”

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When the Hockings arrived in Dubai they walked to the visa on arrival counter and were granted visas. “Everything seemed fine. I was feeling a bit under the weather but I attributed it to the stress of a seven-hour flight. However, as we were walking through the hall and had undergone a thermal scanning, we were asked to step out as the scanner registered my temperature to be 38 degrees. We were advised to go the nearest hospital which was Prime where they asked me questions, took my throat swab and advised me to self-isolate at the hotel room until the results came back. Being a health professional myself, I took all precautions for self-isolation. This included complete social distancing, ordering groceries online and even food would be placed at my door which I would pick up after the room service personnel left. I suffered from mild symptoms of headache, sore throat and fever but by March 16 when the hospital called to say I had tested positive, I was immediately admitted to its isolation ward which initiated the full COVID-19 protocol. I was shocked about the results as we had no idea that UK infection had such a high rate of transmission. I was really relieved that the airport and hospital had been so proactive in screening, testing and admitting me and that played a big role in my recovery.

While Hocking was admitted, her husband’s throat swab was taken as well and he continued isolation at the hotel room. The hospital and hotel were in touch and staff was briefed on refraining from any panic and sanitising the place said Hocking.

Amazing round-the-clock medical care and emotional support helped me recover

In the next 10-days Hocking experienced stronger symptoms. “I never had shortness of breath because I feel the virus never reached my lower respiratory tract or lungs owing to the quick intervention. Doctors gave me symptomatic treatment. But the symptoms are similar to flu however multiplied ten-fold. I had headache, severe fatigue, so much so that I felt I had climbed up a mountain and descended and even a small thing as eating breakfast required monumental effort from me. I had severe nausea and loss of appetite and when I could eat food, I was put on IV fluids.. I feel I was so fortunate because the slightest discomfort I felt or suffered from insomnia, all I had to push a button and had a nurse administer a pain killer or sedative or give me IV fluid. The nurses were so kind and gentle and would gently coax me to eat a little, have a little water, I was touched by the kindness of the doctors and nurses who would enter my room covered thoroughly with complete Personal Protection Equipement (PPE). I got better because of the round the clock care I received at the hospital or else I could have been worse. This is my first visit to the UAE and I had no idea this place had such an advanced level of health care and also did not know I would spend my first visit to this country mostly in quarantine.” Said Hocking.

In the meantime, when the swab tests of her husband too returned positive he was admitted to the isolation ward as well.

Hocking began showing signs of recovery by March 23 when her first swab test returned negative. In a week’s time she underwent three more swab tests every alternate day. When they all turned negative, she was discharged and went back into quarantine at her hotel room.

I am presently in a 14 day quarantine post recovery

“I continue to practice strict quarantine protocols and meet no one at the hotel. I do not leave my room, order online and ask the delivery person to leave my groceries or food on the door. My family has been supported. My sons in Melbourne who have been in touch throughout talk me over phone. I keep in touch with my husband who has tested negative for the first time. It will take another week of negative tests for him to be declared recovered after which his self-quarantine will begin.”

Hocking who feels very positive and cheerful about her whole experience added: “Until now we had only heard of pandemics like the Spanish Flu etc and now we are undergoing one. My son often tells me 10-years from now a child in a school somewhere in the world will be doing a school project where I will be able to tell him what it felt like have witnessed it at close quarters!”

Hocking had a word of caution for all: “I would like to tell people, please do not take any flu like symptoms lightly. Reach your nearest hospital. I was able to recover because of the excellent care I received. It is also very essential to practice self-isolation if you suspect you have the virus, please contact your nearest hospital. One must not be afraid to seek help and post recovery the 14-day quarantine is must. For healthy people it is mandatory they stay at home and break the chain of transmission.

The Hockings will have to spend a long time in Dubai after recovery and wait for international travel to resume. In the meanwhile, their travel insurance has helped them cover this unprecedented health crisis and provide financial respite in this difficult hour, said Wendy who want to return to Dubai in happier and healthier times to be able to enjoy the beauty of the place.

Kerala girl from Wuhan recounts how she survived COVID-19

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-By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Senior Reporter

Dubai: A 20-year-old from Kerala living in Wuhan, China, who was among the first three reported coronavirus cases in India, has shared her story of what it’s like to survive COVID-19 in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. She was diagnosed a week after leaving Wuhan upon her return to India.

From Wuhan to Kunming, and then to India

We took the high speed train from Wuhan to Kunming when government announced the lockdown.

“I am a third-year medical student at Wuhan Medical College and we had just finished our semester exams on January 20. We had a Chinese New year break and I was planning to chill out and stay back in Wuhan. Until the week before we finished our exams, there was no alarming news of the viral outbreak.

We were being careful, there were regular temperature check-ups at the university and we were using masks and hand sanitisers but life was pretty normal. So after exams got over a bunch of my friends, all from Kerala decided to return home for two weeks. We were booked on a flight from Wuhan to Kunming and Kungming in Yunan Province to Calcutta and from Calcutta to Kochi for January 23-24.

The city was not under lockdown but we got a message on the phone that the government would stop all public transport and flights out of Wuhan. So early morning, before that deadline we left Wuhan by train to Kunming, took the flight to Calcutta and then to Kochi on January 24. I had a phone message from the Indian embassy to report to the nearest medical hospital on arrival at Kochi airport, which I did. They took our temperatures and again there was no sign of any infection.

Self-quarantine followed by a sore throat and cough

Being a medical student after I arrived in my village in Thrissur, I was careful to impose self-quarantine at home. I was wearing a mask and following all protocols and reporting to the local hospital in my village for temperature checks as per the Indian embassy advisory.

On January 27, I had a sore throat and cough for the first time and I immediately alerted the authorities and was asked to go the General Hospital in Thrissur. When I went there, I still did not have temperature and they started me on antibiotics. They took a blood sample and throat swab and sent it to the National Institute of Virology, Pune. There were four candidates there under quarantine whose samples were sent. The other three were cleared in 48 hours and discharged, only my result was pending. By then I had developed slight fever.

The result came in positive on January 30, nearly a week after I left Wuhan.

Testing positive for COVID-19 did not scare me

I was not afraid of the virus as I was hardly showing any symptoms.

As a medical student I knew that the virus could be debilitating for those in advanced age and with other co-morbidities. On January 31, I was quarantined at the Thrissur Medical College Hospital and started on a five-day course of the anti-viral medicine, Oseltamivir IP 75 mg.

I had no diet restrictions or anything. I continued in quarantine until February 20 and was tested every alternate day. A blood, urine, stool sample and nasal or throat swab was taken and samples sent to the NIV Pune. After testing negative for nearly a week I was declared free of COVID-19 and have returned home, resumed normal life.

We are having online classes from our university in Wuhan and I hope to return to college once the outbreak subsides. I will graduate in 2023.

My advice to others: Stop fearing the virus, be disciplined and seek medical help immediately

I am strong, healthy, active and look forward to my course and life. I have heard so much about Dubai, someday, once the COVID-19 outbreak subsides, I would love to visit the UAE.

- 20-year-old medical student from Kerala, who recovered from the COVID-19 infection

Now that I am virus free and have the antibodies to protect me from the infection, I intend to tell people to quit being afraid of COVID-19. If you have a travel history or are coming down with respiratory infection, please report immediately to your local hospital. Being pro-active and following protocols will help you combat this.

In my case, because I reported early and started treatment, none of my family members – my parents, friends or the people I travelled with on the plane siblings contracted it because I was observing all prootcols and practising self-quarantine at home. The only other person who contracted the virus was my classmate from Wuhan, a resident of Alappuzha district who also recovered.

“I am strong, healthy, active and look forward to my course and life. I have heard so much about Dubai, some day, once the COVID-19 outbreak subsides, I would love to visit the UAE.”

The UK man believed to have infected 11, makes 'full recovery'


steve walsh coronavirus
Image Credit: Supplied

Brighton, England: A British businessman believed to be the source of a cluster of coronavirus cases in Britain and in France came forward Tuesday, saying that he had fully recovered but would remain in isolation as a precaution.

The man, Steve Walsh, from Hove, a town neighboring the popular seaside area of Brighton in southern England, contracted the virus while at a conference in Singapore last month, according to his representatives, before traveling on to a chalet in the French Alps where a number of other Britons also fell ill. Walsh had already been widely identified in the British media as the man who brought the virus to the chalet.

Walsh thanked doctors for their care in a statement released by a public relations firm representing him and his employer.

"Whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus," said Walsh, one of at least eight people in Britain who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past month.

More than 44,000 people, mostly in China, have been sickened by the virus since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and more than 1,100 have died. The virus has spread to at least 24 countries, triggering fears of a global pandemic.

Ski resort cluster

In Britain, attention has been focused on a cluster of transmissions at a ski resort in the French Alpine town of Les Contamines-Montjoie, near Switzerland, late last month.

At least six people in Britain, including Walsh, and five Britons in France who have the virus have been linked to the chalet.

British health authorities announced Monday that they had confirmed four additional cases of the coronavirus in the country, all closely linked and tied to the French transmissions.

In his statement, Walsh said that he had contacted his doctor and local public health officials as soon as he knew he had been exposed to a confirmed coronavirus case.

"I was advised to attend an isolated room at hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed," he said. "When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves."

Walsh's employer, Servomex, a gas analytics company, issued a statement noting that it was pleased to hear that he had made a full recovery and that it would "continue to provide support to him and his family."

The conference where Walsh got the virus

The company said it was working with public health authorities and said it was it was enforcing self-isolation for others who had attended the sales conference in Singapore where Walsh was believed to have contracted the virus.

The conference was held from Jan. 19 to 22 with about 90 company employees in attendance. The first Servomex employee tested positive for the coronavirus Feb. 3 - that person also attended the conference - and guidance was issued to all staff members. This is what alerted Walsh to the situation, and he subsequently contacted his doctor.

Public health officials Monday evening said that two of the new cases announced earlier in the day were health care workers and that they had been advised to isolate themselves.

"We are now working urgently to identify all patients and other health care workers who may have come into close contact, and at this stage we believe this to be a relatively small number," Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said in a statement.

While national public health officials did not specify the number of contacts the health workers had, a senior official at National Health Service group said at least 12 patients at the County Oak Medical Center in Brighton came into contact with them. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The center was working with national health officials to trace the movements of the patients, she said.

The Bevendean Primary School in Brighton also said one of its staff members had been advised to go into self-isolation after coming into contact with someone who carried the virus. It said it would allow absences if parents wanted to keep their children at home.

Tracing those who might have been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus is being coordinated by Public Health England, which is working with the Department of Health, the National Health Service and local councils to respond to the current cases.

That process involves health officials working with each patient to collect information on where they may have visited since the onset of symptoms or, in the case of travelers, since they arrived in Britain.

All of the contacts are then categorized into high or low risk. Those deemed to be at a higher risk have a daily health assessment, and some may be asked to isolate themselves, health officials say.

Any of the contacts who report symptoms will be assessed and offered testing for the virus, the official said.

"No information"

But in Brighton, where a number of confirmed cases are linked, many feared they were not being given enough information.

Samer Bagaeen, a member of Brighton and Hove City Council's health board, criticized health officials and the local council for a lack of information. Bagaeen said advice from health officials that people "self-isolate" has caused confusion.

"We haven't been given any information about the self-isolation process," Bagaeen said. "Are these individuals still going into shops and buying groceries? And if not, who are they coming into contact with and how are they being protected?"

Brighton residents expressed similar frustrations, with many complaining that information was coming by word-of-mouth rather than through official channels.

"This is a small place, and it's scary to think that anyone could have it, and anyone could get it," said Adam Neil, a convenience store employee, who put up a "card only" sign Monday to avoid handling people's cash.

"No one has given us any information, so we have to take our own precautions," he said.

Jack Henley, a local taxi driver, said he would work half days until the risk of contracting the virus diminished.

"Our bosses won't let us wear masks because they don't want us to scare the customers away, but I'm scared of the customers, to be frank," he said.

Matt Hancock, Britain's health secretary, told Parliament on Wednesday that the coronavirus situation would "get worse before it gets better," but noted that even as numbers of infections in Britain have risen in recent days, the threat to the public remained "moderate."

On Sunday, 105 British citizens returned to the country on a flight after being evacuated from Wuhan, China. They are now in isolation facilities.

Hancock defended measures introduced Monday to extend the government's power to impose a quarantine on people believed to be at risk of spreading the virus. He warned that the response to the coronavirus would be a long-term process.

"Dealing with this disease is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.

Dubai mum whose son tested positive for COVID-19 says 'coronavirus is not a death sentence'

-Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor

A family photo of Dubai mum Yogita Shanker, 51, with her husband, 53, and son Tanishk, 22
A family photo of Dubai mum Yogita Shanker, 51, with her husband, 53, and son Tanishk, 22 Image Credit: Supplied

Thanking COVID-19 frontline workers

Dubai expatriate Yogita Shanker was in tears when she got the call from Dubai Health Authority (DHA) confirming that her 22-year-old son, Tanishk, had tested positive for COVID-19. He had just returned to Dubai from the US, but, had already self-quarantined and made sure he wouldn’t infect his family. The 51-year-old told Gulf News, how her son and her family together broke the chain.

Shanker’s son landed in Dubai on March 16, she explained: “My son, Tanishk Shanker is a Senior at Princeton University in NJ, USA. When the University closed down, he wanted to come home but kept saying what if he gets infected during the long flight, or at the airport, and in turn infects us. Who knew his words were prophetic. So, straight after landing Tanishk decided to go under a self-imposed quarantine, even though at that time it had not been announced as compulsory. Before he arrived home, he instructed us to leave many drinking water bottles, cleaning items like disinfectant sprays, sanitizers, a broom, a duster, gloves, masks, some snacks and a yoga mat inside his room. He said he would not come out of his room at all. He has an ensuite bathroom so he was self-sufficient. We, his parents are middle aged – on the wrong side of 50, so he stopped us from coming to the airport to pick him up. He went straight to his room as soon as he arrived. He was literally on his own, confined in his closed room from that point. We texted emoji hugs to him when he reached home.”

She added that the family, basically didn’t get to see him at all after he returned. Shanker said: “He made sure not to touch anything. We all thought it was just precautionary but he was being very sensible. On Tanishk’s insistence, we all followed the strictest of measures. We would give him food in disposables, leave them outside his room and he would take it away. He was cleaning his own room, bagging his garbage and push it from the balcony on to the front yard, where we left it in hot sun for a few hours, after which we would wear gloves and put it inside the bin. He mentioned that he would get symptoms on the fourth or fifth day, if at all, and if nothing and he felt alright, then he will finish his self-imposed quarantine. At that point, we didn’t know he needed to do this for fourteen days, news and details about self-quarantine hadn’t picked up yet.”

Healthy 22-year-old

Then on the morning of March 20, Shanker said her son who relatively led a very healthy lifestyle, started showing mild symptoms. “That day he was supposed to come out of quarantine and have breakfast with us. But he felt unwell - fever, headache, bodyache, tired. He was sore, specially lower body. Quite unlike him. He didn’t have sore throat or cough or breathlessness. He decided to continue quarantine/isolation for another two or three days. Next day, he was the same, very little cough but no improvement. Fever was slightly higher but not much 99.7 degrees. He was practically living in isolation at home already. He was sleeping for 16 hours a day. Rest of the time he attended online classes.”

Symptoms and intensity for COVID-19 varies person to person, young people may not show any symptoms at all. The family decided to call the DHA helpline. Shanker said: "We explained his symptoms and DHA advised us to get his test done because of symptoms and travel history. He got tested on March 21. They said that the results will be out in 72 hours.

Testing positive for COVID-19

“My husband, myself and our 49-year-old maid were advised to be in quarantine - not to step out of the house and not meet anyone until results are out. My son was to continue to be in isolation until results. Basically, we kept doing whatever we were doing already. We hadn’t stepped out of the house since March 15. Nobody had come home either. So nothing different for us. We were told we will be called only if the test is positive. When we didn’t receive any call from DHA after 72 hours we kept wondering what to do. But we decided it was best to continue isolation until we saw a negative report. The report gets uploaded on the DHA app, but, on March 24 nothing had been updated on the app. We wondered if we were checking the wrong portal so we called DHA and they explained that there were delays in uploading due to an overwhelming amount of tests being done.”

Dubai has conducted the highest number of coronavirus tests per million in the world. By March 23, 220,000 tests were conducted and as of Saturday, the total number of COVID-19 patients in the UAE is 1,505.

Shanker's family that has lived in Dubai for 11 years now, continued in isolation. They just chatted on WhatsApp or spoke to their son from outside his door. “He said he was feeling better. Fever and headache had reduced but body ache persisted. He was very tired all the time so he slept a lot.”

On March 25, we got a call in the evening from DHA that our son had tested positive. Since they knew about our strict isolation they asked us to continue that. They told us there was no treatment for it, so for now there was nothing to be done except let the body’s immunity fight it out. If symptoms or health worsens then naturally we would need to take him to the hospital. My son most likely got the virus during the flight back home. All his mates who were with him on the campus right till the point he took the flight home, have not been affected with the coronavirus.”

Dubai Health Authority does what is needed and more

Yogita Shanker added: “I was tearing up every now and then, but my husband and my son told me to be strong. They said it is not a death sentence. He said he was feeling fine, because of his age and good health.

“Then we heard from DHA on March 26, that they will send an ambulance to take him to an isolation centre operated by a hospital. We were advised that he will be under medical supervision and monitoring. He was taken there on the evening of March 27. All his tests - throat, nasal swab, blood, EKG, X-ray were done immediately. His x-ray came clear. The vitals were all okay. They are repeating tests every three days. He is very well looked after. As soon as his two tests are negative, he can return home. His first test result is negative. We are waiting for more test results but we talk to him every day. DHA calls us every now and then to inquire about our symptoms, and to ask us how our son is doing.”

She added: “Since we are New Zealand citizens, we got a call from New Zealand Embassy too, to inquire about his health and how we are all holding up. It’s been 17 days since he first got symptoms. The remaining three members of the family, myself, my husband and our maid do not have any symptoms as yet. We were told somebody would come home to do our test, but no one has because people with symptoms are being given priority for testing. We are under quarantine and just chilling at home. Initially, we were worried about our son and also what if somehow we too had got it. Any sign of slight headache would throw me in a tizzy. It was more of imagination and out of stress. But, we have successfully broken the chain by taking all precautions, staying confined at home and following all the rules of quarantine.”

Community steps in to help

Shanker said her community and neighbours are helping a lot too: “If a neighbour goes out for groceries then they would get mine too and leave it outside the gate. We disinfect it and bring it home. When they were legally stepping out, they were leaving bread baskets, books, get well soon wishes, masks outside our gate. We don’t know their names or haven’t seen them."

"There has been an overwhelming support from the community, the society and the government. I am glad, we did our part in not becoming a further liability to the system. Those who are getting exposed to the virus due to unavoidable circumstances like my son need the medical attention. But secondary people like us can avoid it and by breaking this chain we will not strain the system. If my son was not wise to go under strict self-isolation from the time he came, just now there would be four more of us with the virus. And given our age, who cannot be sure of how our immunity would respond, although we are seemingly healthy with no pre-conditions. We would then have only ourselves to blame if things do go wrong.”

'I had the coronavirus, and I beat it'

-Rebecca Frasure, Washington Post

I tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb. 7 while I was quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It was a stressful six weeks, full of uncertainties, frustration, isolation — and finally relief. At the end of it, I recovered. But my journey wasn’t over.

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My symptoms were mild all along. I had a dry cough and light fever for about a week; the symptoms resolved within three days of being admitted to a hospital in Tokyo. The doctors and nurses monitored my vitals but administered no treatment to fight the disease because there is none.

Still, I was trapped even after my symptoms passed because, to be cleared and discharged, I needed negative results on two consecutive nasopharyngeal coronavirus tests performed 24 hours apart. The doctors gave me 14 tests over my 28-day stay, some just the throat, some throat and nasal, and in the end just nasal swabs, per the Japanese testing guidelines.

We can manage with a few changes right now, and it will make a big difference in the long run. Then, let’s hope that tens of millions soon will be able to say what I welcome gratefully: I had the coronavirus, and I beat it

Although the test was readily available at the hospital, the results were taking anywhere from a day to a week to come back. It took three weeks for me to get my first partial negative result (nasal positive, throat negative). And then the results kept flipping back and forth. After 28 days in an isolation room within the hospital’s infectious disease unit, I finally received my two negative nasal test results and was discharged March 5.

Whisper of spring

Once discharged, I was free to do as I wished. I was ecstatic. I had begun to wonder whether I would ever be truly free again. I revelled in the bright sunshine of that late winter afternoon. I basked in its healing warmth and felt the wind on my face, the whisper of spring in the newly budding flowers.

A rebirth, it seemed. I was finally reunited with my husband, who had waited in Tokyo for me. (He never contracted the virus.) For the 28 days we were apart, I survived by texting, calling and FaceTiming him from my hospital room. He even came to see me a couple of times.

He would stand in a parking lot outside my window to see me because he wasn’t allowed to visit. It is a true test of marriage to go through something like this and come out OK on the other side. We were overjoyed when I knocked on the door to his hotel room and were finally reunited.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said I could come home after a five-day wait in Japan, to ensure I did not have a recurrence of symptoms, after which I would be removed from the Do Not Board list and permitted to return home to Portland, Oregon.

But there is still one crucial piece of the puzzle we don’t yet have: Epidemiologists still don’t know if I am immune to the coronavirus. The disease isn’t understood well enough. And I wasn’t given any particular guidance on how to behave. My husband and I are abiding by the state and federal mandates the same as everyone else.

It was weird being around other people at first. In Tokyo, people dined at restaurants, shopped and took the subway. At that time, almost nobody had gone through what I had. There was no social distancing yet, let alone the lockdown that is probably inevitable.

We tried not to go into crowded spaces, while still attempting to experience some of the vacation we had planned. We did a bit of sightseeing but also just rested and tried to decompress and process all that we had been through.

On March 10, the CDC emailed that we could return home on a commercial flight. Because we had been on the Do Not Board list, there was a bit of a delay checking in at Haneda Airport, but officials soon reviewed our CDC note and we received our boarding passes.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship is seen at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 27. A former passenger on the cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan

A customs agent at San Francisco International Airport asked me and my husband whether we had been on the Diamond Princess. Our passports must have still had a warning on them. We were escorted to a makeshift CDC checkpoint, where officials asked to see our hospital-issued immigration paperwork (which confirmed we were virus-free) and the CDC email. We made our connecting flight.

Threatening messages

Once we returned to Portland, the virus was already here. I was concerned about any stigma I might bear, not just from having contracted the virus, but for having been on the cruise ship. Once it was public that I had tested positive, I received threatening messages not to come back to the United States because people thought I would bring it back home.

Our faces have been all over the news, and we were among the few people speaking about those events. It was a risk, but we believed it was important to get the word out.

Instead, the people who know us have been extremely supportive. Our employers, friends and family are thrilled to have us home and aren’t afraid to be near us. (But we aren’t going around shaking hands or hugging gratuitously.) In observance of the scientific consensus, I am working from home.

I don’t go out unnecessarily — just trips for groceries or takeout. I stay the appropriate distance from others when I am in public. These are common decencies everyone has been asked to follow, and my husband and I do not consider ourselves exceptions.

Still, I find my personal odyssey so reassuring. I did recover, as many thousands have also done now. If you find you have contracted the disease, all hope is not lost. I am acutely aware of the impact of losing certain freedoms for the month I was trapped in a small hospital room.

(If you have a mild case and can spend the course of the infection in your own bed instead of in the hospital without endangering others or your own health, you should.) And, yes, that period was insanely difficult. But it can be done, and my liberation made me so grateful for the quotidian things I had taken for granted: the gym, fresh air, decent food, human contact, grocery shopping, house cleaning, the daily grind.

If we collectively succeed in limiting the spread of covid-19, the fear surrounding it will subside. We can manage with a few changes right now, and it will make a big difference in the long run. Then, let’s hope that tens of millions soon will be able to say what I welcome gratefully: I had the coronavirus, and I beat it.

Delhi’s first coronavirus patient recounts treatment and road to recovery

-Nilima Pathak, Correspondent

Rohit Datta
Rohit Datta Image Credit: Supplied

New Delhi: Rohit Datta, the first patient from Delhi who tested positive for coronavirus and has since been cured, has applauded the prompt response of the Indian government in fighting the pandemic, and advised people to report their travel histories.

“India is on a mission mode and working at hectic speed to control the impact of coronavirus throughout the country,” Datta said.

Speaking to Gulf News from his home in Mayur Vihar’s East Delhi area, Datta said, “It was amazing to see the prompt response of the government authorities once my report tested positive at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital on March 2. Within half-an-hour I was moved to the isolation ward at Safdarjung Hospital. I came to know later that within 25-30 minutes, a medical team had also reached my house to test my family members and homes of some of my friends.”

Datta was discharged from hospital on March 14, but has been asked to remain in home confinement for a fortnight.

The 45-year-old businessman, who runs a company that manufactures technical textiles for footwear, travelled to Italy in mid-February on business along with two relatives.

“We are the only producers of this material that provides strength to leather. At the time of our travel, there had been no news reports of an outbreak of the disease in Italy. It was only later that we came to know of the situation there. We were possibly not screened at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, as we had taken the flight from Vienna,” Datta recounted.

“We reached Delhi on February 25 and on the same night I developed the fever. Treating it as an indicator of travel fatigue, I took paracetamol and in the morning visited a local physician, who prescribed medicines for three days. On February 28, I felt better and since it was my son’s birthday, we decided to have a small get-together at Hyatt Hotel. My mother, wife and our two children celebrated with families of two of my friends, whose children are my son’s classmates.”

Hospital was like a luxury hotel

On returning home, Datta once again developed the fever. By then, news of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy was being reported.

“I won’t deny that I felt very scared and thought it was ‘the end’ for me. The next morning I decided to visit RML Hospital, where a counter was dedicated to patients suffering from flu. We were asked to fill out a form and because I had fever, I checked that box and was advised by the doctors to get admitted,” he divulged.

The next evening, he tested positive and was immediately shifted to Safdarjung Hospital. Providing details of his experience at the hospital, Datta said, “We have never considered visiting a government hospital before and I was pleasantly surprised to find the isolation ward of the hospital matching a luxury hotel. The doctors broke the news to me with an assurance, ‘you will go from here hale and hearty.’ It was very comforting.”

A medical worker helps a suspected coronavirus patient, both wearing protective suits, shift to an isolation ward of Safdarjung hospital after going through scanning at the airport, in New Delhi, on March 4, 2020.

“The treatment in terms of care was exemplary and the staff extremely polite. It made me appreciate how doctors, nurses and sanitation workers risk their lives to save ours. Sharing his telephone number with me, the senior-most doctor in-charge told me to feel free to call him anytime in the day or night if I required anything.

“Over the days, more surprises awaited me. I received a video call from the Federal Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan, who enquired how I was feeling and whether I liked the hospital food. It made me realize that the captain of the ship knew his job and I was in safe hands! He apprised me that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally monitoring the condition of all coronavirus patients in the country.”

Datta had access to a mobile phone and could make video calls to his family and even watch films. “There was nothing else to do, except rest and unwind. I would do yoga and read books. Realising that I was the first coronavirus case in the capital, I conditioned myself in a way that I could be a role model for others. At no time did I feel disconnected with the world, except that I could not meet my family members.

Isolation at home

Relieved to be back home, he says: “I am undergoing ‘isolation at home’, but however plush the set-up was, it feels good to get away from that hospital and be able to eat home-cooked food.

“However, it will take time for me to go back to my normal life. And my advice to all patients is that it is very essential to not jump directly onto one’s routine life. Just take it easy,” he counsels.

Recalling the downside of his experience, Datta says: “I was a patient, but it was sad to see my photograph and telephone number splashed on social media. I began getting hate messages and calls. Unknown people cursed me as if I had gone to Italy deliberately to get infected. I was made into a criminal.”

Coming out wiser

The experience has only made Datta wiser. Acknowledging that he cannot shut his business ties with Italy, he said, he would certainly not visit the country during such contingencies.

He warned that news about cases of relapse in several people in Japan were merely rumours. “This is not at all true. People should not believe them. I implore all citizens to have faith in the doctors and the nursing staff, who are doing a commendable job in containing the disease.”

When asked if the good treatment meted out to him was because his was the first coronavirus case in Delhi, Datta said: “Please understand that in my case, the medical staff was not experienced and I could still have been at risk. But now they are all well equipped, well researched and experienced enough to deal with such cases. All we need is to strengthen their hands by reporting the symptoms of the disease and not hide in our homes to avoid being hospitalised.”

Status report

Datta had travelled to Italy along with his two brothers-in-law, from Agra, Uttar Pradesh. They also got infected and transmitted it to four other members of the family. All six of them were picked up from Agra by the medical teams and transported to Safdarjung Hospital. While four have been discharged and sent home, two are awaiting test reports.