Not a holiday: What life is like in hotel quarantine
Tuesday, April 7th, 2020
VINCENT OLOO is among hundreds of people who travelled into Kenya from abroad and now placed on mandatory isolation as part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. He lifts the lid on what it means living in seclusion, survival and finding hope.
Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
Vincent Oloo had barely completed his two-weeks work trip in England when he saw the headlines; “No international passenger flight will land or take off from Kenya effective March 25, 2020.”
Having waffled for days watching as cascades of coronavirus-related travel bans and flight cancelations to various countries come into effect, he decided to cut short his two-week trip in the country and hopped onto the next flight to his home country while he still could.
The Transformational Breathing trainer had travelled to Glastonbury town in England on March 11, 2020 .
However, bearing in mind all the fear that was in the air around the globe, Oloo did not want to take any chances, he booked a direct flight from London to Nairobi with no stop overs.
Aboard British Airways flight number BA 65, there were only a handful of passengers.
There were 35 people on the plane excluding the cabin crew and captains. The capacity of this plane should have been about 300 people if not more.
On arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on March 23, at 9.40pm they were informed that they would be put on mandatory quarantine at a hotel of their choice.
“This information did not come as a surprise, I was aware that we needed to self-quarantine for the sake of our loved ones and country at large,” he says.
Overnight airport stay
However, Oloo says the way they were treated from the time they arrived at the airport to the evacuation to hotel was not the best.
“My expectation was that we would be tested to see if any of us was positive of Covid-19 or not before any action was taken.
It was very interesting to see that upon arrival ‘home’ we were treated like sick people who did not even deserve to enter the country, it was more like you are sick until proven healthy,” he says.
All the passengers were sent to a roped-off area, where they were instructed to wait for government officials who would give them further direction.
Their wait spurned into an overnight stay in the cold, without any information about the quarantine facility they were expected to occupy.
“The first person that came to talk to us arrived at 4.50am,” he laments adding.
“I agree that with the compulsory quarantine for all the people entering Kenya, I feel there should have been better preparation for the same,” he says.
The three gentlemen from the government who came to address them started out by reading out a list of available hotels that they could go to at their own cost. “It felt like an insult.
The hotels were too expensive for a common Kenyan who was just coming back home from visiting a relative, or even worked abroad,” he alludes.
The worst ordeal was having to move around town squashed in a National Youth Service bus that had no ventilations for a whole day,” he narrates.
First they were taken to Safari Park Hotel and on arrival, the management said they were not admitting any clients.
They stopped over at one more hotel without success and went to Kenyatta University Conference Centre.
Here they waited by the gate for about four hours without communication… “the next thing we heard was that we were going to Karen, then along the way plans changed and they found themselves at the University of Nairobi, Lower Kabete campus,” he narrates, adding, “We got stranded for another three hours before a hotel in Karen was confirmed.”
One of the officials even went ahead to say that we will not pay anything owing to the tribulations we had gone through for almost 24 hours clearly reading their frustrations.
At their designated hotel in Corat Africa, Karen, a three-star hotel. None of the promises was fulfilled and they had to pay their own accommodation of Sh5,000 a day, including meals.
By day 10 (Thursday last week) at the hotel, Oloo says he had received the much needed rest, “My stay here has been so good, I love the services and the staff at Corat are really friendly and caring,” he beams.
Oloo describes this period, which expires today as a good opportunity for self-mediation, “I start my day with meditation and prayer when I wake up, then I do my physical exercises with some yoga then I go for breakfast.
I then do some work on my laptop before going out in the sun to hanng out with my fellow quare… the environment here is so good, as much as we keep our social distance, we still feel like a family, talking to each other, encouraging one another, laughing together and crying together when things are not so good.
In the afternoon I always have an opportunity to take a nap and in the evening after dinner I watch a movie or two on Netflix before going to sleep,” he describes.
Most importantly, he has experienced overwhelming calls from so many people. I always make a joke to my friends that ‘If you want to know you are loved, try dying,” he smiles.
“I have made new friends from this place and I think the relationships will continue way beyond this quarantine.
My plan after this is to see how best I can support others who are going through different challenges caused by this pandemic, but most importantly spend quality time with my family,” he says.
He says the officials from the ministry of health have been visiting them every day to check their temperatures and the Red Cross have been calling every so often to guide and counsel them, which he terms as very encouraging.
“ I can say that so far my stay here has been rewarding, the only challenge has been getting proper medical attention for one of us who has not been well since the beginning and the only test that has been done for him has been to check whether he is positive for Covid-19 or not, and even that has taken so long so I am worried for him,” says the father of three, Lucy , 17, Peter, 14 and Mark, 11, who he says he misses so much.
“They knew that I won’t be with them immediately when I come back this time, and they know that it is for their own good.
They give me a reason to smile even when I feel down. They are the reason I wake up every morning. I must confess that I do miss my family a lot,” he admits.