Christmas in quarantine

Sharing experiences

19 January 2021 | Health

Windhoek • Maria Kandjungu

No one sang. There were no cheers of “Happy new year!”. It was just “quiet and weird.”
This is how 10-year-old Angel describes her unusual Christmas and New Year’s Eve spent in a quarantine facility in Windhoek.
At the beginning of January when Nampa visited the facility, Angel and her family had spent three weeks in quarantine after her mother contracted Covid-19. They were among thousands of people in the country who similarly spent the festive season in quarantine, away from their loved ones.
The Ministry of Health reported in a Covid-19 update that at least 1 590 people were in quarantine facilities countrywide on 25 December 2020. This number rose to 1 672 on 1 January 2021.
“We came here because we all live in one small room and my mother didn’t want us to play outside with other children in case we infect them. She was afraid people would blame her,” the 10-year-old girl said.
Her mother, Tinnah, said she started having difficulty breathing and headaches around 10 December, prompting her to get tested. Her results came back positive on 14 December.
“I took my kids to get tested, but by the 16th their results were not back yet and I struggled to keep them inside and away from other kids who live in the same compound. I was also getting worried because we share a bathroom and other common rooms with those living in the same compound, so I asked to be taken to a quarantine facility with them while we wait for their results,” she said.
While her children never received their results, they started developing symptoms while in quarantine.
“It has been hard watching them get sick one by one. I tried not to show fear but it has been a rollercoaster of scary emotions. I didn't expect us to stay here this long but when one gets better, the other one gets sick. They get headaches and diarrhoea, they sometimes also struggle to breathe, it is just a bit of everything,” she said.
Tinnah said while the three weeks of quarantine were not entirely unpleasant, it was not ideal either.
“This is not how I wanted to spend Christmas and New Year especially after such a difficult year where I lost my job. I was looking forward to it; just something exciting, to be with family, celebrate and be happy. But that didn’t happen. Instead, we are all here. But at least we are safe. We are not in the hospital, the kids are doing much better today than they have been doing the whole week. It could have been worse and for that I am thankful. It helps that we are isolated together, it would have been really difficult if I was here alone.”

Above and beyond
She applauded the health workers for their hard work, saying they have made everything bearable.
“The nurses are always available, they call to check up on you, they bring medicine. They are really hands-on and they go above and beyond to make it as comfortable as possible. The doctors also come in every other day. It’s comforting knowing they are there,” she said.
Tinnah said while she worries about her financial status, she is focused on getting better and getting out of isolation first.
“It has been a rough year and this made it even worse. The kids are supposed to start school soon but I don’t know if I am comfortable sending them. I don’t have a job and I was doing odd work since being retrenchment, but since I’m here I haven’t made any money. That is a battle on its own that we will face as soon as we get out of here,” she said.
Angolan national Addison Lucas who also spent three weeks in quarantine, said this was by far his hardest and saddest festive season. “I am in a foreign country. People here just stay to themselves. I have no one to talk to and I have nothing to do. It is depressing. I sometimes get angry because it’s not my fault. I was careful, I made sure because I wanted to go home, I wanted to see my family but here I am,” he said.

Lukas left South Africa where he studies mid-December to head to Angola to spend Christmas with his family. He had a negative test result which allowed him to leave South Africa. However, upon arriving at the Namibian border, they were informed that one person in the bus had tested positive and as such all occupants had to isolate at the border and be tested again.
“My results came back positive on 22 December, at which point I was moved to Windhoek and I have been here since. I don’t know when I will leave. I don’t have symptoms, but for as long my test doesn’t come back negative I can’t enter Angola and I will not leave Namibia’s borders. I am basically stuck here. The plan was to spend December and part of January home with my family, but now I don’t know if I will even get a chance to go home because my classes in South Africa start on 28 January.”
Minister of Health Kalumbi Shangula on 13 January said there is a continuing and rapid rise in Covid-19 confirmed cases in Namibia. At the same event he said the second wave has now far exceeded and eclipsed the first wave and said all non-Namibian travellers must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result that is not older than seven days at ports of entry. – Nampa

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