In a country where the average daily high temperature in summer ranges from 42 to 48 degrees celsius, an air conditioner (AC) to filter cool air inside the house becomes a necessity. 27-year-old Sonam, (name changed) and her six friends have had to endure the scorching heat for 4 days when the AC broke down in their apartment in Kuwait. They remained inside their apartment due to the lockdown. The very next day after repairing their broken AC, Sonam and her roommates fell ill.
All of them suffered from headache, fever, sore throat and mild body pain. But they brushed it aside thinking it was just the normal cough and cold. They thought that their bodies were reacting to the intense heat and sleep deprivation for 4 days when the AC was not working.
None of them were able to eat for two days. With the help of the over the counter cold medicines and hot water drinks, they managed to recover within a week’s time. They had never even stepped out of their apartment during the lockdown so they felt there was no way to get infected with the coronavirus.
Sonam and her friends arrived in the country in June, and they tested positive for COVID-19.
“Not even once we thought that we could be infected with the coronavirus,” said Sonam. They were surprised when they tested positive.
They were informed that even after recovering from COVID-19, the dead cells remain in the body and that is why they had tested positive. The next day, Sonam and her friends were admitted to the isolation ward in JDWNRH.
Sonam’s only worry while flying back to Bhutan was on burdening the government with the cost of 21 days of quarantine.
Sonam said, “When I first tested positive for the COVID-19, along with six of my friends whom I share an apartment with, they also turned out to be positive. I was blank, I did not know what to say or feel.”
She was discharged after a week in the isolation ward upon testing negative. She said the one-week in isolation felt very long as she was lonely and experienced emptiness. She said she is used to being together with her roommates, her family and friends. The hardest part is that her parent has no idea that she has tested positive but thinks that she is in the quarantine facility for 21 days.
“Doctors and nurses in the isolation ward have amazed me by the way they took care of me in the isolation ward. They take care of the patients just like their own family. I am so grateful to the doctors and nurses who took care of me and they were there whenever I needed them,” said Sonam.
Three of her roommates are still in the isolation ward to be discharged soon, said Sonam. Although Sonam is in de-isolation, however, she still worries as she is under observation for two weeks and will have to undergo another test.
“I am scared,” she said, and further added, “There is no guarantee that I will test negative again. No individual who tested COVID-19 positive will ever be relaxed just because they tested negative once. The virus is very new and someone who tested negative can test positive again.”
Sonam and her friends faced difficulties in Kuwait during the lockdown. They took all health safety precaution and even bought the essential food items online. Sonam said that they might have contracted the coronavirus through the vegetables and other essential items bought online which was delivered to them in their apartment.
Sonam worked in Starbucks for the last two years. She and her friends continued to work for a month even after hundreds of COVID-19 cases were reported in Kuwait. The lockdown was imposed on 10 May after Kuwait saw thousands of COVID-19 cases. It was then that Sonam and her roommates decided to return back home. There have been 38,074 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 308 deaths due to the disease in Kuwait as of first week of June.
The thought of returning back home to their families made Sonam and her friends happy. They wanted to come home earlier in April but managed to get away from Kuwait only in June due to the lockdown.
When she heard the news that 10 people returning to Bhutan from the Middle East tested positive, “I was scared and sad, and I really wanted to return back as soon as possible,” she said. The fear of getting the virus made her and her roommates stay put inside their apartment in Kuwait. The only day they came out of their apartment was to go to the airport to board the flight home, she said.
As for the people ostracizing them, she said, “This is going to happen. I am not going to worry about it. The only worry is, what if I transfer the virus to my family members or in the society after being declared as recovered? She said the virus is very new, and no one knows what lies ahead. I may test negative, but still there could be some chance of it coming back.”
Sonam is determined to take all precautions by strictly following the physical distancing, wearing facemask and all the other measures that the government has asked an individual to follow. “I don’t want to take any chances,” said Sonam.