Anxiety, paranoia stalk Covid quarantine zones

By Thu Anh   June 26, 2021 | 04:59 pm PT
Anxiety, paranoia stalk Covid quarantine zones
A woman has her body temperature scanned at a Covid-19 quarantine zone in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
It is taxing enough to be in a Covid-19 quarantine zone, away from one's home and loved ones, but the isolation also takes a mental toll on some.

Ngan, 42, has been in quarantine at the HCMC Industry and Trade College in District 9 for five days. One night she called the emergency hotline every five to 10 minutes and complained about having a fever, vomiting, urinary infection, and "too many mosquitoes."

Kieu Ngoc Minh, a doctor at the Le Van Thinh Hospital and medical supervisor of the place, said Ngan did not have any symptoms she claimed to.

Knowing Ngan has had a history of mental illness and realizing the isolation was getting to her, he asked a colleague at the mental department to have her diagnosed online and given medicines.

Ngan's condition is now fairly stable, but she requires medicines daily to keep it that way, he said.

Another woman, Nguyen Thi Rang, 57, a housekeeper for a family in Tan Phu District, came into contact with a colleague who was infected with the coronavirus and had to quarantine.

For an entire week she was in quarantine while her children had to be isolated at home.

She felt fear, sadness and insomnia, and also said she cried a lot.

"I was so scared I could not stay in a room with someone else and requested doctors to isolate me."

Her chance of being infected was low as she had only opened the gates for the coronavirus patient, but quarantine could expose her to cross-infection, she feared.

As a result, she became anxious and frequently lost sleep. Only after doctors assured her she would be isolated in a room did her worries go away.

Nevertheless, life in quarantine is a massive shift for Rang compared to the comfort of her home. Counting down the days she had left leaving has become a new habit for her.

Coping mechanisms

Nguyen Kim Khoi Nguyen, a doctor working at the District 3 medical center, said some people resort to beer, alcohol or even drugs to avoid boredom in quarantine.

People often hide booze amid other stuff like ice packs and boxes, and personnel at quarantine zones have to check and remove everything since the use of narcotics and alcohol is not allowed, he said.

"We sympathize with the people, but if they violate rules repeatedly, we have no choice but to report it and transfer them to another quarantine zone."

Nguyen recalled one incident on June 18 after a young man got an acquaintance to smuggle some narcotics (suspected to be marijuana) into the quarantine zone. His subsequent behavior frightened other inmates and disrupted order, and Nguyen and his colleagues had to perform first aid on the man, take samples from him for testing and inform authorities. The police arrived and informed the man's family.

The limited capacity of quarantine zones is also a concern since it keeps people within close proximity, and the anxiety and fears start sowing discord.

There are many other elements at play that increase the emotional and mental burdens on inmates.

But doctors and other personnel managing the quarantine zones said they are always willing to walk the extra step to ensure inmates' worries do not overwhelm them, and fortunately many get the message.

"Luckily, most of those quarantined understand and abide by coronavirus prevention rules once we properly explain to them," a doctor said.

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