'I need to be positive to get a negative': COVID-19 patient quarantined for over a month

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read
Most tests for the new strain of coronavirus involve taking a swab sample for analysis
PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — More than a month into her quarantine stint, Case 441 is counting down the days between each occasion that she is tested for COVID-19.

The 57-year-old, who only wished to be known as Mrs Lee, takes a swab test every four days. She must test negative for the virus two days in a row in order to be cleared for release.

“I am very unlucky,” lamented the mother of two adult children. “Three times already, my first test was negative, but the second was positive.” When she spoke to Yahoo News Singapore over the phone on Wednesday (22 April), she was awaiting the results of a first test on the day that Singapore crossed the 10,000 mark for COVID-19 cases.

It has now been 31 days since Mrs Lee was initially warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). She is currently confined to a shared room at D’Resort NTUC, which has been designated as a community isolation facility and can accommodate some 500 people.

Throughout this time, Mrs Lee has only experienced mild symptoms like headaches and a slight cough, on and off. Asked how it compares to a regular flu, she replied, “It is not even like a flu. The feeling is like I am slightly uncomfortable, but I can still go to work.”

For now, Mrs Lee is keeping busy with exercise, watching Korean dramas and daily prayer sessions and video chats with her husband and children. The family also regularly brings her cooked food and fruit.

Mrs Lee also misses local food like chilli crab. Asked what meals are catered each day, she replied with a laugh, “Every day chicken. But we can’t complain, the government is paying for it. We should be grateful.”

Waiting to go home

This has been home for Mrs Lee a.k.a. Case 441 since 30 March, as she remains in quarantine and is unable to leave the room. PHOTO: Mrs Lee
This has been home for Mrs Lee a.k.a. Case 441 since 30 March, as she remains in quarantine and is unable to leave the room. PHOTO: Mrs Lee

Mrs Lee is one of 4,999 cases who are clinically well but still testing positive for the coronavirus, according to latest figures from the Health Ministry. These patients are being isolated and cared for at community facilities until they have shed the virus.

The office manager is also the last of a group of four people – including her husband, who is Case 308 – who all got sick after returning from a holiday to the United States last month. All have since recovered and been discharged – except her. Her symptoms are also the mildest among the quartet.

Mr Lee had a fever and severe headaches, and also lost his sense of taste and smell for a while. Their friend became seriously ill but has since recovered.

And while she remains in good spirits, she admitted that the moment she discovered that her husband had been discharged but she could not leave, was tough to take. “My hope is high that I can go home, but then they called and said I am positive. In that moment, I was very, very down.”

The couple, who were initially warded at NCID at different times, were assigned to the same room in D’Resort upon her husband’s request. But the feeling of loneliness hit hard after he was released on 14 April. “Why am I still here?” she recalled thinking.

‘I have become more holy’

Asked if anything positive has resulted from her long stay in quarantine, Mrs Lee said with a laugh, “I became more holy. I was telling my friends, never in my life have I prayed so hard.”

It has also been a time for reflection and soul searching, with the family, whom she misses dearly, coming closer together. “I know I need to be well to go home. I cannot be spreading it to other people,” said the Catholic. “I tell myself: I need to be strong, I need to be positive to get a negative answer.”

“I also need to think of my children. What if I spread it to them?”

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