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Abu Dhabi: Asma Alam lives with her family of eight in Abu Dhabi, and yet she was the only one to contract COVID-19. So how were the others spared?

The 21-year-old says her experience with the disease, which has been fatal for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, left her feeling truly blessed. She told Gulf News that she feels like she got away unscathed and is thankful that none of the other members of her family got infected.

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“I was asymptomatic the entire time. But because the protocols then required all COVID-19 patients to be isolated, I spent nearly three weeks in quarantine, away from my family,” the Bangladeshi accountant said.

Only one in family with COVID-19

“There was a sense of concern initially because the pandemic was affecting so many severely, but COVID-19 didn’t hit me very badly. More importantly, everyone else in my family continued to remain healthy,” she said.

Alam was first tested for COVID-19 along with her colleagues on May 23, and then again on June 2. She tested positive both times, and after the second screening, she was directed to a hospital.

“I was first asked to come down to a public clinic along with my personal belongings.  There, after a few checks, I was told that I would be staying at a hotel in Abu Dhabi,” Alam said.

Hotel quarantine

For the young professional, the stay as she waited to recover from the infectious condition felt like a brief retreat, albeit a slightly lonely one at times. “The UAE made things very comfortable for patients like me, and perhaps because of my age and general health, the condition itself was not burdensome,” Alam said.

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Alam was quarantined at a hotel to avoid contact with the rest of her family. Image Credit: Supplied

She stayed in touch with her family — her parents, four sisters and a brother — over video conferencing apps, and spent much of her time watching TV shows or studying to develop her career skills.

“It was a sort of a break for me. I got regular meals, didn’t have any responsibilities, and was able to spend time relaxing. On hindsight, I am acutely aware that numerous people had it a lot worse,” Alam said, referring to many of her colleagues who were really run down by COVID-19.

Worried about family

Her father is diabetic, so Alam was worried that he would be infected with COVID-19.

“We had been cautious since the start of the pandemic, and had always worn masks when leaving the house. So it was a surprise for me when I was diagnosed, and I hoped no one else in my family would be similarly affected.  I just kept praying that there would be no other COVID-19 cases in my family,” she said.

Stress-free recovery

Fortunately, there was no other bad news while she stayed in quarantine at the hotel, being tested every two days. And this allowed Alam to stay largely stress-free, which she says may have aided her recovery too.

We had been cautious since the start of the pandemic, and had always worn masks when leaving the house. So it was a surprise for me when I was diagnosed

- Asma Alam

“After about 15 days, when I was still COVID-19 positive, I was escorted to a field hospital. Things were less luxurious there, but still very comfortable. Then, after five days, I finally had two negative COVID-19 results, and was allowed to go home,” Alam said.

Colleagues worse affected

She returned to work, where she found that many of her colleagues had developed very bad coughs, sore throats and chest pains when infected by the coronavirus. “We all discussed our experiences, and that is when I truly found that I had got away lightly,” Alam said.

Greater caution

Her brush with the condition certainly made the young Abu Dhabi resident more cautious. Alam became even more vigilant about wearing a mask, social distancing, and handwashing, which she says are simple measures in the grand scheme of things.

“Perhaps I had developed some degree of immunity from the coronavirus, but I wasn’t willing to take any risks. What if I got infected again, and it turned out to be worse than the last time?” she said.

She urged other UAE residents to adhere to all precautionary guidelines. “You can’t really tell how the disease will infect you, so it is best to stay safe,” Alam added.