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The 30 year-old PhD student in the United States arrived in the country on March 24 amid heightened measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has claimed more than 80,000 lives across the world and battered world economies/FILE

Capital Health

366-hour wait: Student returning home from virus hotspot relives mandatory quarantine experience

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 10 – A lot went through Joseph Njuguna’s mind while on a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the Co-operative University in Karen, Nairobi.

“What if I am positive?” like a song on a repeat mode, the question stack on his mind and stubbornly so, he told Capital FM News.

The 30 year-old PhD student in the United States arrived in the country on March 24 amid heightened measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has claimed more than 80,000 lives across the world and battered world economies.

His flight was among the last international flights that landed in the country, before a government ban on international flights came to effect.

“I knew I will proceed to a mandatory quarantine as directed by the government,” he said.

But it is the process that terrified him more than anything else.

Joseph Njuguna/COURTESY

On arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he found authorities ill prepared on what to do with them.

They would be bundled in a “crowded bus” and got ferried to their respective quarantine facilities.

“I was worried. I was wondering if I had contacted the virus during my travel or when we were being transported to quarantine facilities through the crowded NYS buses,” the second born in a family of three said.

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Njuguna’s worries didn’t end there; the government was categorical that those arriving from abroad were being quarantined at their own cost.

“The rate was another major issue that kept me awake most of the nights,” a day after he was released, Njuguna narrated.

At the airport, authorities told them that they will pay Sh2,000 per night for the 14 days but the management of the University reviewed the fees upward to Sh5,200.

While at the quarantine, they waited for 9 days to be tested- what he termed as the longest wait “in my life.”

What if I turn positive, will I recover?

Will I be accepted back home without being stigmatized?

A train of questions run through his mind, with his only comfort being praying, listening to music and reading books.

Before they knew their status, everyone stayed in their room.

Being told he’s positive, he said, “was the word I dreaded for after the test had been done. I felt a sigh of relief (after the results turned negative) and for the first time I called my family bearing the good news from the quarantine facility.”

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At home, he will stay indoors for 7 more days- and is set to be tested again if he shows any of the coronavirus shows.

“Morning, for once I have had a good sleep,” read a text message from him on Thursday morning.

His appeal to Kenyans is to respect the government directives without fail, to avoid the crisis from getting out of control.

His call is similar to that of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has urged Kenyans to observe all the precautionary measures, to reduce the need for a total lockdown.

The disease whose infection rate in Kenya stood at 184 by Thursday, April 9, has claimed seven lives.

“This being a contagious virus, Kenyans should observe all the sanitation measures,” he said.

“Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water , cover you mouth while sneezing either with a tissue or elbow ,wear a mask all the time in public place and observe social distancing .If anyone has a flu like symptoms they should seek medical
attention.”

His rallying call to Kenyans is “let us be mindful about one another during these tough times. Our unity will help us overcome this pandemic.”

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