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Glimpse of the day-to-day lives of COVID- 19 patients in Rwanda

Glimpse of the day-to-day lives of COVID- 19 patients in Rwanda

Kanyinya Health Center / Courtesy

Last week, I was wondering how life is behind the closed doors of the facilities designated for coronavirus patients in Rwanda. Then the national television aired a report that answered my question. The reporter, donning full protective gear from head to toe, gave us a virtual tour of Kanyinya Health Center, located in Nyarugenge District.

Since the confirmation of the first case in Rwanda on March 14, the Ministry of Health has been updating us regularly. We knew that the patients were not on ventilators but it was more uplifting to see them upbeat. "When you tell people you are here, they think you are in a critical condition. We talk, we exercise — no one is dying." One of the patients said.

When asked about his experiences at the center, a German patient responded in a jovial mood, "I am not sick. I am just coronavirus positive." All patients who interacted with the reporter looked perfectly healthy. As a matter of fact, they didn’t look like patients to me. They looked like regular people in isolation — like the rest of us. The only difference is that their standard of living is probably better than ours and the government foots all their bills.

Each room is fitted with a TV set. Patients follow the ongoing circus of news like the rest of us. They use their phones and communicate with their families and friends. The internet connection in the facility is pretty fast, according to one of them.

Dr. NAHAYO Ernest reassured viewers that all his patients were stable. His team is treating them accordingly and monitoring their progress closely. He also revealed that there is a good chance the first case in Rwanda, who happens to be asymptomatic, will be released soon. Discharging a recovered person follows a very careful protocol. Once a patient tests negative twice in a 24-hour interval, he is released. When that happens, he is required to self-isolate for an additional period of 14 days.

Another patient, a Ugandan of Asian decent was chatting or browsing when the reporter approached him. At some point, a thermometer was pointed at his forehead. His temperature appeared to be normal. In another room, a Rwandan patient was checking out something on his laptop. He looked like any other person working from home.

None of them knew when, where and how he got infected. The virus doesn’t alert you when it checks in. It doesn’t introduce itself when it arrives. It lets you lead your normal life until you start exhibiting symptoms. The incubation period can take up to 14 days.

The Ugandan had landed from London and the Rwandan had just jetted in from Belgium when symptoms were detected at the airport. Both were isolated before their worst fears were confirmed.

There is a room prepared for critically ill patients. It is labeled isolation room 5. Fortunately, isolation room 5 is still not occupied. We pray and hope it stays vacant.

The author is an adventurer whose mission to discover Rwanda’s tourist attractions is suspended until further notice. He is currently staying home for obvious reasons.

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