Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Coronavirus: UAE issues self-quarantine guidelines

Stock up on food and don't rely too much on screens, if you find yourself confined at home

With the number of coronavirus cases rising rapidly across the world, it is increasingly likely that those with mild to moderate symptoms, or even just those who have been exposed to an infected person, will be asked to “self-isolate” at home rather than be treated in a hospital.

But what does this mean? The UAE has issued new official guidelines so that residents know what to expect.

What does it mean to “self-isolate”?

Basically, it means staying at home and avoiding contact with others.

You might be asked to self-isolate if you have tested positive for an illness, until you are no longer infected.

Equally, those who have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 could be asked to self-isolate to avoid passing it on, even if symptoms have not developed yet and a diagnosis has not yet been confirmed.

This is in case the virus is still in its incubation period, meaning a person is carrying it but symptoms have not yet developed.

In these cases the isolation period would continue until it is confirmed that a person does not have the illness.

But shouldn’t all coronavirus patients always be treated in hospital?

Not necessarily. While thousands of people have already died from the illness, these have disproportionately been people who are elderly or have underlying health issues.

So far, it has been common practice to seek to quarantine those infected, but this is to prevent spread in the community as well as for the health of the patient.

If it reaches a stage where the infection is being widely passed from person-to-person, health systems would not have the capacity to treat every person in an isolated hospital bed. Doctors would then be likely to prioritise only the most at-risk patients.

Experts have said that for most otherwise healthy people catching Covid-19, the symptoms are likely to be only mild or moderate.

Carl Goldman, a 67-year-old US radio station owner who caught coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, has said his experience of the illness has been “not that bad”.

“My chest feels tight, and I have coughing spells,” he told the Washington Post. “If I were at home with similar symptoms, I probably would have gone to work as usual.”

How long will quarantine last?

Typically, for two weeks. “Anticipate at least seven to 14 days in isolation at home,” the UAE guidance states.

Can I prepare?

While there is no way of knowing whether you will be asked to self-isolate, there are steps you can take to prepare.

Buying a two week supply of non-perishable food items is recommended, as well as long-life alternatives to fresh products, for example powdered or UHT milk and tinned fruit and vegetables.

Other important items are disposable tissues, antibacterial wipes and latex gloves.

A medical kid should include a thermometer and paracetamol. Also, make sure you have enough of any medication you need to last a couple of weeks.

Can people visit me?

In a word, no.

Friends and family members offer support to someone in quarantine, for example by bringing groceries and other supplies. But they should leave these at the front door.

It is also advised that all household members should stay at home, even if only one person has been exposed to the virus. Just one other member of the family should look after them. If a household has a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, it is wise for the quarantined person to stay there.

“Try to keep the exposed person away from other members of the household,” the UAE guidance states. “For example, they should stay in their bedroom with the door closed, and they should not share a bedroom.

“If the exposed person needs to share a common area with other people, they should try to stay one meter or more from other people to reduce the spread of illness, and wear a facemask.

“Arrange for to have exclusive use of one bathroom (if your house has more than one bathroom). Keep items separate For example, do not share towels or eating utensils, or store toothbrushes in the same holder.”

Won’t it be boring?

Probably. Those in quarantine at home may want to continue working remotely, if they are well enough.

An up-to-date Netflix subscription may be useful, but UAE health officials have warned against too much screen time.

"Do not rely too heavily on the television and technology,” the advice states. “Treat quarantine as an opportunity to do some of those things you never usually have time for, such as board games, craft, drawing and reading.”

Updated: March 8, 2020 04:14 PM

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