Coronavirus: Chinese colleague of first UAE patient tells of 14 days in quarantine

He was among 110 people in mandatory isolation due to close contact with first four UAE patients

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A Chinese expat who worked with one of the UAE's first coronavirus patients has written of the 14 days he spent in quarantine.

Wang - not his real name - kept a diary of his two weeks under observation before he and his family was given the all-clear.

“We’re safe!” is the final entry on Thursday, his last day of confinement at home in Dubai.

"It seems like birds trapped in the cage for a long time could finally breathe the air in the sunlight freely," he wrote in the diary, which was shared with The National.

It seems like birds trapped in the cage for a long time could finally breathe the air in the sunlight freely

Due to quarantine guidelines, he was among about 110 colleagues and their relatives who were instructed to remain at home by the UAE health authorities. Their entire company was effectively closed for the past two weeks.

Wang, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote how the ordeal began with a late night phone to say a colleague had tested positive.

The colleague and his family were the first four cases in the Middle East reported with the coronavirus on January 29. One of the four, Liu Yujia, 73, recovered and was released from hospital on Sunday.

“A phone call woke me up from my sleep at late night,” he wrote.

“The infected people were one of our closely associated colleagues and his family. All employees and family members of our company were required to have self-quarantine immediately and could not go out, which made my sleepiness disappear instantly.”

He records feeling a “deep fear and sense of helplessness” as he looked at his sleeping family.

“The next day, when it was still dawn, I got up and wiped every corner of the house with disinfectant.”

He worked from home to minimise the impact of the closure of his company.

The diary reflects his nervousness that his family’s fate was tied to the patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The days of quarantine at home were not as easy as we thought,” he wrote.

"On the one hand, in order to minimise the loss caused by company’s closure due to the quarantine of all employees, all of us still worked at home.

"On the other hand, we should monitor the physical conditions of ourselves and our families in real time and report the situation at any time. Holding mobile phone in the left hand to discuss business, while holding thermometer gun in the right hand to measure body temperature gradually became the classic action of the home-quarantine.”

He describes a surreal scene of four family members wearing masks through the day and night - in case one had the virus and not the others - and setting them aside only for meals.

He jots down details how “we wore masks even when we were sleeping. This kind of unprecedented experience was truly a kind of suffering.”

Along with his wife, he used online shopping applications for household purchases.

But managing elderly relatives and young children cooped up within four walls was a challenge and the constant refrain he heard was, ‘when can we go out?’

Despite some discomfort, knowledge of the crisis at home in China and in Wuhan where at least 1,350 people have died made his family understand the need for the quarantine.

“There is no border for virus. Our self-quarantine measures were not only responsible for our own and colleagues’ health and safety, but more for the public health security of the UAE,” he wrote.

He said the Chinese consulate and embassy checked in for daily information about their health and the authorities made it clear medical treatment was quickly available if they they showed symptoms.

Support from the UAE government has strengthened the community’s bonds with the country

“The warm behaviour of the UAE government made us feel that we were not fighting alone,” he said.

His UAE friends regularly asked about his family and are equally relieved about their release from confinement.

“They cheered for me as if they had experienced these things, which has moved me again,” he wrote.