‘I’m happy to be home but I’m also stuck’

SINGAPORE (CNA) – It was a long wait that spanned more than 50 days – 48 at D’Resort and three at Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases – but when she was told of her discharge on Friday, COVID-19 patient Pamela (not her real name) was more confused than relieved.

Because, as far as she knew, she was still positive for the virus.

Speaking to CNA from her home, Pamela said she received a call on Friday morning from staff at community care facility D’Resort, who informed her that she could be discharged.

“I asked them, ‘Are you sure? Because I did my first swab only yesterday and I should be (getting) my results today. If it were negative, I should be getting my second swab today’,” she told CNA. “They said MoH (Ministry of Health) told them that I could be discharged so I was a bit confused. They told me to pack up and get ready to be discharged from 9.30am onwards.”

To clarify, Pamela called the MoH hotline. She was told that she would be discharged and that there would be a call from the duty nurse at D’Resort to explain the situation. During the call from the nurse, Pamela was told that she was still COVID-19 positive, but was eligible for discharge.

“I told her I didn’t know my result. She said she had my result and that it was positive,” Pamela recalled. “I told her I was happy to stay longer. I’d stayed so long and it didn’t matter already. It was the right thing to do.

“Her advice was for me to go home and stay indoors, and not be in the same room as my parents,” said Pamela. “The whole morning I felt like I didn’t know if I should be leaving – maybe I thought I should have just locked myself up in the room.”

Pamela’s stay at D’Resort had been a largely pleasant one, she said.

“Coming from the hospital, having the fresh air and the balcony (at D’Resort) really was quite a blessing. I would rather have been there than at the hospital … Out of the 48 days, there were maybe three or four days that I was quite down – Mothers’ Day was not great, and (neither were) the days when I got a positive (test result) after it had been negative the day before.”

Pamela was still uncertain as she left the isolation facility at about 10.40am.

“You don’t know if you should be happy because you are told you are still positive,” she said.

“It was a bit hard to explain why I was home,” she added. “I didn’t tell my parents that I was (coming) home initially, because I wasn’t sure if things were going to change … They were surprised.”

In response to CNA’s queries, MoH confirmed yesterday that 18 COVID-19 positive patients who had stayed at D’Resort as long as 51 days were discharged after it was determined that they were no longer infectious to others.

The patients, who were clinically “very well” and stayed at D’Resort for “prolonged periods”, were referred to a medical review committee. They persistently tested positive for COVID-19, MoH said.

“The committee deliberated on each of these cases individually and determined that the patients are shedding dead viral components, detectable through the PCR test, but which are no longer transmissible and infective to others,” said MoH. “After careful consideration, the MoH decided that these individuals can be cleared for discharge.”

As an added precautionary measure, these patients are required to be home quarantined for a further seven days, said MoH.

Pamela was handed her quarantine order yesterday morning. The measure brought her a little relief, she said, but concerns remained.

“It’s definitely a bit better but there is still that sense of uncertainty,” she said.

“Factually, logically speaking, it helps because I know that these are my boundaries,” she said. “I’m happy to be home but I’m also stuck. I might as well have been stuck there.”

Given that her last test was still positive, Pamela also remains unsure if she will be swabbed at the end of her quarantine to confirm that she is virus-free.

“How do we know if we are officially negative? Will it be via the test?” she said.

In its reply to CNA, MoH said infectious diseases experts have advised that patients are unlikely to be infectious beyond 14 days from their onset of illness, as the virus can no longer be cultured from biological samples taken from these patients, even if they continue to test PCR positive.

Even so, Pamela is doubtful and feels that it might have been better if she had stayed on at D’Resort or at a quarantine facility.

“I don’t mind (being away from home) because I think it’s clearer for everybody. I wouldn’t even think whether they (my family) would be infected,” Pamela said. “I’m sure some people would rather stay at home, and I would rather stay at home but it makes more sense to be isolated.”