(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. – American health authorities said February 25, 2020 they ultimately expect the novel coronavirus to spread in the United States and are urging local governments, businesses, and schools to develop plans like canceling mass gatherings or switching to teleworking. The comments mark a significant escalation in the level of threat being conveyed to the US public and come amid fears of a pandemic, as the disease has taken root in several countries outside China, including Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. (Photo by Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO /CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION/ALISSA ECKERT/HANDOUT ” – NO MARKETING – NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Frontliners are the most vulnerable section of the society today, battling on behalf of us to defeat the deadly coronavirus wreaking havoc throughout the world. In this war against the virus, they are the soldiers and the first to take the bullet. This is very true for a family of four who were all infected because “the light of the family”, the mother, is a nurse at Sabah Hospital. 

Speaking to Kuwait Times through Facebook Messenger, Nelia (not her real name), who is also a clinic instructor, shared her family’s experience of COVID-19. She believed the virus infection started from her. 

“On March 21 at our office at Sabah Hospital, a co-worker tested positive for the coronavirus. So the entire office staff had to be quarantined and tested. Two additional persons then tested positive. I was negative in the first test. After testing, we were told to go home for mandatory quarantine for 14 days. But in the middle of my 14-day quarantine, I experienced high fever and headache. I was swabbed again, and in the second test, I tested positive for the coronavirus,” she said. 

‘Following protocols’

At home quarantine, Nelia said she followed the ministry of health protocols. “I never went out of my room. I was being cared for by my husband and two grown-up children at home. They used gloves and facemasks the moment they came near my room. All supplies were placed at the door and I would take them when they went back to their rooms. We were very careful about health ministry protocols because we knew the consequences. Since I was positive, I feared I might infect others in the family although we were in separate rooms. I wasn’t wrong, as after three days, my family members got infected. They all experienced symptoms and they all tested positive,” she said.

To this date, the virus has no specific medicine to cure patients. Some vaccines are being tested, but availability will not be anytime soon. Remedies and treatments being recommended by doctors are those that are already known to cure fever and headache, including paracetamol, antibiotics and vitamins to boost the immune system. Personal body hygiene and observing cleanliness at home is also highly recommended. 

“Steam inhalation and gargling with salty warm water helped us a lot. The steam inhalation made me sweat and I felt better with every session,” Nelia said. “In the family, only my husband needed to be hospitalized, so I recommended him to be admitted to Sabah Hospital. But he was eventually transferred to Mishref temporary medical shelter for COVID patients. He is there now and recuperating,” she said. 

Both her daughters recovered, while she is scheduled for the next test on June 4. “I feel good now – my sense of taste is back. I can eat well and I know I am already victorious. I am 61 and my husband is 65 – we are in the most vulnerable group. It is only by His grace and prayers we survived this virus,” Nelia said, noting that the most difficult and probably the most worrisome chapter of their lives in Kuwait was testing positive for the virus. Nelia joined the ministry of health at Sabah Hospital in 1986. Her husband was also a registered nurse at the same hospital, but retired and joined a church ministry in 2005.

‘New cases every day’

Rob, a cooperative society worker in his 30s, also tested COVID-19 positive. He was swabbed along with his co-workers and after two days, the ministry of health informed him that he was COVID positive. He was asymptomatic. “My colleagues received messages over the phone from the ministry informing them whether they were positive or negative, but I received a call from the ministry saying I am COVID positive. The ministry instructed me to tell our boss about the result and that I should not go to work, which I relayed to my boss,” Rob recalled.

He said since the lockdown began in March, they were transferred to the nearest school in the vicinity of their workplace and had been staying there. “We are living in a huge school building along with all the staff at co-ops. Then we were all swabbed. People who tested positive were transferred to another school compound in the area. We were about 36 cases, but now we have more – almost every day they are bringing new positive cases here,” Rob told Kuwait Times.

Asked if there are doctors checking their health condition, he replied in the negative. “Since we were transferred here, no doctors have come to check our health conditions. We were advised by our boss that in any emergency situation, we should call 112 for an ambulance,” Rob said, adding that all food and medicines are provided by the company.

“We have vitamins and paracetamol – we are four people in one classroom. I regularly do steam inhalation, as it helps me a lot. I sometimes feel muscle pain, but maybe because of the daily exercise. Sometimes I have headache or cough, otherwise I am okay. I don’t know when the ministry will come back to check our condition – maybe the company will instruct us to go to the clinic for the checkup. Many of us here are okay but COVID-19 positive,” he said.

Rob was supposed to go for his annual vacation to the Philippines, but the lockdown was declared a few days before his departure. “I was supposed to be in the Philippines now, but because of the lockdown, I wasn’t able to leave. So my boss told me to go back to work, so I went back, and got this COVID,” he lamented.

‘Not very serious’

He claimed co-op managers are not very serious in observing the ministry’s guidelines in supermarkets.  “While we have hand sanitizer and facemasks, there are no other measures taken by the management to protect workers – they only want money and our services, but they are poor in protecting their workers,” he said. 

As an example, he said if the workers are okay despite being suspected or exposed to COVID-positive cases, the management will still give them a schedule of duty. “Some of our bosses are not wearing facemasks or gloves at work. Social distancing is imposed but not for employees. So we cannot avoid being infected because customers are too many. Plus our work schedule is too tiring, a full 12 hours of duty. So maybe some of us got COVID because of our weak immune system and overwork – just like myself,” Rob said. 

Rob is now recuperating and counting the days until he will be officially declared COVID negative. “We are told to monitor our temperature and in case of difficulty in breathing, we should call the ambulance. We are all okay and so far, no emergency call has been made. Most of us here are asymptomatic – we just do whatever is necessary,” he added.