Namutebi narrates that no explanation was given to them before they were taken to quarantine in Central Inn. For Namutebi and 44 other travelers life at Central Inn was characterised with challenges, terror and hopelessness. The lack of food and personal protective gear gave many sleepless nights.
Rachael Namutebi, a student at the University
of California is among many Ugandans who opted to return home when COVID-19 started
ravaging developed parts of the world like the United States of America where
she was based.
At that time, Uganda was a sitting duck
surrounded by countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Namutebi returned at a
time that Uganda was in the process of strengthening its prevention measures
against the COVID19 pandemic. It is at the same time that the Health Ministry
declared a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all people returning from category one
“We came thinking that we were going into self-isolation. On
reaching Entebbe International Airport, what we found was surreal. We were
unwilling characters in an action thriller as unidentified people whisked us
away in vans to an unknown place,” Namutebi recollects.
Namutebi narrates that no explanation was given to them
before they were taken to quarantine in Central Inn. For Namutebi and 44 other
travelers life at Central Inn was characterised with challenges, terror and
hopelessness. The lack of food and personal protective gear gave many sleepless
“The area was expensive. Nobody was caring about us and
surprisingly some people had been favored and found their way out of the place.
When some of colleagues made noise on social media that is when the Ministry
started caring,” she adds. Namutebi explained that while there, they were
mixed with other people who had come from other places, saying they feared that
they could contract the virus in the quarantine.
It is after the public outrage that Ministry of Health
transferred Ugandans from Central Inn to Arch Hotel and Apartments in Ntinda, a
suburb of Kampala where most of them have testified that the situation is far
better as they are being cared of. At first 15 people were moved and later on
more were taken to the same place over time.
There have been tales of people running from their colleagues
who are coughing for fear of being exposed to the virus that is transmitted
through droplets. Medics have also advised people to observe social distance. For a person in quarantine coughing leads to endless
fear and suspicion that one could have contracted the deadly pandemic.
Namutebi developed a cough on Wednesday last week, she says it is the worst
experience she has ever had.
//Cue in; “Because it happened…
Cue out…you never know.”//
Later in the day when she explained the
experience to a medic who had come on one of the medical checkups, she was told
that the cough was just a reflex and her temperature was still normal with no other
signs. However, this is not a grantee as yet as she still has more 4 days to complete
the recommended 14 days.
She notes that life in quarantine is full of
worries. “Things like; what if I contracted the disease and sign haven’t just
started showing up? Then the rising number of confirmed cases is another source
of worry,” she said.
Another quarantined traveller Maria (not real name) at
Douglas Hostel located in Kikoni in Kawempe Division in Kampala says that life
during quarantine is lonely. "Apart from what we watch on news, we don’t
know what is happening. We do not talk to each other. We are kept in our
private rooms and only interact with health workers once or twice a day. The
rest of the day, we have our phones and TVs only," she said.
She says quarantine isn’t a good experience but it is a
necessary evil. “Being away from your family for a full year and you come back
to be locked up in a small room isn’t easy. But personally, I appreciate the
exercise because travelling home and infecting your family is a scary thing,”
Being healthy is one of the key things that doctors are
urging people to be during this pandemic. According to the Health Ministry,
eating the right type of foods like vegetables, plenty of water and fruits can
have a big impact on how one’s body reacts once infected with the disease.
When asked what they are fed on, Maria laughs saying
that they have been taken back to school in so many ways. "We are eating
school food but then again, you can't expect to be comfortable in quarantine
and eat what you would normally eat at home. They are trying. They give us
three meals a day," she said.
According to Maria, their diet mainly comprises carbohydrates
and proteins. Vegetable and fruits are available on few occasions. She says
they eat meat, G.nut paste, beans, Matooke, rice and Irish potatoes. Much
desired fruits and juice are served rarely.
Do They Spend Their Day?
In the quarantine it is not like person is sick but there are
limited things one can do. Namutebi shares that the first days at Arch hotel,
they could keep inside their rooms watching television, and calling family
members, which was boring.
To her the quarantine looks less than a prison. However,
after observing them for days, Health Ministry officials later allowed them to
move around in the gardens and do physical exercises on the grounds provided
they observe the four-meter-distance.
//Cue in: “We can even…
Cue out…to the garden.”//
For Maria who is in a Hostel, the day is boring
since they don’t have anything to do. There is neither television nor any other form
of entertainment at the hostel. Sleeping, eating and bathing make their day.
She shares that due to lack of disruptions; one finds him/herself thinking of
the possibilities of having the virus.
“Mere thinking of the virus is psychologically torturing.
With all the stories we hear of how people with the virus die. The would-be
escape route to the boredom is to switch onto social media but the content
there is much worrying. Learning that more people from the quarantine are
testing positive leaves me shivering,” says Maria.
Over 1,015 people in Uganda are currently going through
Namutebi and Maria’s experience as they are either under self-isolation or
institutional quarantine in hotels, schools and hospitals. Uganda has 52
confirmed COVID-19 cases.