A COVID-19 scare

By: Ambeth R. Ocampo - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 07,2021 - 08:30 AM

Lockdown extended another week? Nobody seems surprised. Some even think this will last till the end of the month, speculating that Malacañang is merely delaying the inevitable to keep people in the National Capital Region Bubble happy with weekly doses of ECQ instead of one full dose that could spark a revolt.

A year since the first lockdown, the invisible enemy is still around, hitting closer to home. Last year COVID-19 struck only nameless friends of friends, today it strikes within the comfortable six degrees of separation. By now all of us know COVID-19 positives or fatalities. Now that COVID-19 has names and faces, it makes the daily infection statistics real and terrifying.

It was reckless of me to go out of town twice a few weeks ago. Friends tell me that travel on a plane is safe because all passengers have a negative antigen test within 48 hours to board. On my second trip, the more accurate RT-PCR test was required. Returning from the first destination, I was advised to get tested because someone who had chatted me up and took a selfie was found to be positive. At the second destination, things were more complicated. Returning from a long day trip, I was raring for a shower, cocktails, and a hearty dinner. I was met at the entrance to the resort and told discreetly that a person in the villa I was staying in had tested positive. A health squad in full PPE were taking swabs just below the seaside restaurant and I asked to speak with the municipal health officer who patiently explained that as a person exposed to a COVID-19 positive case, I had to be isolated for three days before being swabbed.

Entering the sealed villa to reclaim my things required full PPE gear. I had worn light PPE twice for dental appointments and wasn’t prepared to be suited up in a true PPE. A nurse helped me put it on and sealed it by the neck, wrists and ankles. I was given latex gloves before putting on the suit, and was surprised when the nurse flashed a pair of scissors, cut into the sleeves, put my gloved hand in and asked that I put on a second set of gloves before the wrists were sealed with tape. Things happened so quickly I forgot to take photos. I went in the room, greeted the COVID-19 positive who stopped eating dinner and apologized for the hassle. I told him it wasn’t his fault. While packing my things, I felt dizzy from all the excitement and being hermetically sealed in PPE.

Back outside with my luggage, it took me twice as long to get out of the PPE because the COVID squad had gone and I didn’t have a clue how to quickly remove the tape on my neck, wrists, and ankles. It took an hour to be transported to isolation because there was no ambulance available and I couldn’t be transported in an ordinary vehicle. It was late, I was tired, hungry and getting angry when I was asked: Would you mind being transported in an open back police van? Beggars can’t be choosers, besides it’s my first time to ride a police truck. Too bad no photos were taken. Even without handcuffs, the eminent historian transported like a criminal would have gone viral.

Isolation place was far from where I was originally billeted, and as we traversed the small unlit streets in the dead of night, a slight fear came over me thinking I could be the next “tokhang” victim for COVID-19 instead of drugs. My isolation facility was comfortable, packed dinner was sent over, I took a shower, and slept. Next morning, I discovered I had a better beach than the one I was previously in. It didn’t matter whether I tested positive or not, as a person exposed to a COVID-19 positive I was looking at 14 days quarantine in the province. After that, I had to make my way home in a rented car with no aircon, traveling 24 hours by land and Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) back to Manila. Fortunately, a day into isolation, I was informed with profuse apologies that the person I was exposed to was a false positive. Released from isolation, I flew home and waited two days before I took another RT-PCR test that yielded my fourth negative.

Mine is a story with a happy comical ending, but the experience of being a PUI (person under investigation) was so stressful I wouldn’t even wish it on an enemy. I can now imagine the stress and stigma that comes with a positive result. I’m taking this new lockdown more seriously.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: COVID-19, ECQ, lockdown, person under investigation, PUI

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