Coronavirus: Travellers talk of loneliness in self-isolation

Wednesday March 18 2020
Vincent Li

Vincent Li, his wife Luo Wang and child Joy Li at a Nairobi hotel on Sunday. The family was confined in their home for two weeks and relied on well-wishers to buy them food and other items. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


For 15 days, Vincent Li, his wife Luo Wang and their child Joy Li would take their temperatures in the morning and evening before sending the results back to the Chinese embassy.

The family of three was not allowed to come out of their home, and relied on well-wishers to bring them food and other essentials during their self-isolation, as directed by the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.

Self-isolation means staying away from the public where one could infect other people.

During the period the young family also filed reports on their health.

“Our child had started learning some English words but he forgot some. We had to learn different ways to cope, such as playing board games” says Mr Li.

Zhang Xiang, another Chinese citizen who resides in Yaya, Nairobi, was separated from his family after travelling to Beijing earlier this month. Although he was 1,000 kilometres from Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak — and had shown no symptoms of the deadly bug, he was informed that he had to be confined to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.


Mr Zhang, who works with State Grid Company in Kenya and Tanzania, said that when he returned he had to sleep in a friend’s spare room.

“I took up a room next to my family and I would peek through a peephole whenever I heard their voices. I really missed them for two weeks,” he said.

Safety measure

Mr Wu Peng, the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, said these were some of the tough measures taken to prevent the virus from spreading to the country.

He said he had instructed all Chinese companies in Kenya to ensure all their staff arriving from China exercise self-isolation for two weeks before they are allowed to mingle with others as a safety measure.

Meanwhile, the government is conducting mandatory screening at all points of entry as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to cause fear globally.

Surveillance systems have been put in place at all ports of entry, with health teams conducting vigorous Covid-19 screening on individuals entering Kenya.

Two weeks ago, over 600 tourists aboard the MS Marco Polo at the Mombasa port went through a vigorous Covid-19 screening.

The visitors, mostly from the UK, commended Kenya for taking drastic measures to ensure safety.

“Where we suspect that there is an incident, we have facilities to quarantine the individual. We also have experts at the port who can diagnose, treat or transfer patients to other hospitals,” said Kenya Ports Authority Managing-Director Daniel Manduku.

The port, he said, had not had any Covid-19 case, adding that all entries across the country had been secured.

Mr Grant Holmes, with Inchcape Shipping Services, said there were zero chances that the vessel had any suspected Covid-19 cases.

“This is because it has been travelling around Africa with very limited connection with people from China,” he said.

The outbreak has caused global panic, with a US cruise ship being turned away five times at ports over fears of the disease.

Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Guan and Thailand denied entry to the MS Westerdam though none of the passengers had been diagnosed with the deadly respiratory disease.

Globally, over 70,000 people have been infected, while about 10,000 have recovered.

Kenya has adopted measures to prevent the virus from finding its way into the country, with Kenya Airways suspending flights to Guangzhou in January.