Two female patients quarantined over coronavirus fears have broken free and escaped, citing unacceptable conditions and treatment for their drastic actions.
The women were placed into isolation in Russia as authorities hospitalised hundreds returning from China in the wake of the deadly outbreak.
Both complained of uncooperative doctors, poor conditions and fears they would become infected after returning from the island province of Hainan, a popular tourist region off the mainland’s south coast.
While Russia took the precautionary measure to quarantine the large numbers of tourists returning from the virus-hit nation – a move experts at a coronavirus conference in Geneva this week urged other countries to take – patients have slammed the move, reporting dire conditions of isolation rooms and lack of cooperation from doctors uncertain about quarantine protocols.
One of the women, 34-year-old Guzel Neder took to Instagram to detail her isolation and her subsequent escape.
She explained her son came down with a cough and a fever of 37.3C four days after the family’s return to their home in the city of Samara.
She called emergency services, who diagnosed the boy as having a viral respiratory infection before informing her she and her son must go to a hospital for coronavirus tests.
The hospital promised test results within three days, then extended it to five, she said, and meanwhile the boy responded to treatment with medication and an inhalator, she wrote. When she tried to press for results, hospital personnel obstructed her, she said.
Meanwhile, she had become concerned about lax procedures in the hospital, saying that some medical personnel came to the isolation area without masks or threw their protective clothing on the floor.
‘We had no choice’
Her anxiety soared on the fifth day, when she began to feel ill. She asked her husband to bring her a home pregnancy test, and “after two minutes of wringing my hands in anticipation, it came on the screen — PREGNANT,” she wrote.
Her husband argued with the doctor that she and their son should be released because of her condition and concern of infection. The doctor said they had to be held for 14 days even if the virus test came back negative.
“My son was hysterical,” she wrote.
“There was no exit for us other than to leave the hospital without authorisation, through the window.”
She told The Moscow Times her family “had no choice” but to leave.
Police later questioned her at home, but no charges have been reported.
“Everyone in my family is alive and healthy, thank god,” she wrote, saying after three days she and her son were cleared of any coronavirus infection.
The second woman, Alla Ilyina, said in an Instagram post she came down with a sore throat several days after returning to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, from Hainan.
Ilyina called emergency services, and medics brought her to a hospital for coronavirus testing, promising to let her go after 24 hours. The next day she was told she tested negative for the virus, but had to remain quarantined for two weeks.
“Wild,” Ilyina wrote.
“All three tests showed I was completely healthy, so why the hell the quarantine?”
‘Hospital cage’ hell
Her isolation room was dire, she told the Fontanka newspaper — no books, no shampoo, no Wi-Fi a wastebasket that was never emptied, the door secured by an electronic lock.
Frustrated, she figured out how to short-circuit the electronic lock and escaped from the hospital on Friday.
“I drew up a map before and made a detailed plan. When evening came and the medical staff had let their guard down, I short-circuited the magnetic lock in my containment room and opened the door. I studied physics, which helped,” she told The Moscow Times.
She said she couldn’t understand why she was forced to stay in a “hospital cage”.
Neither the hospital nor police have followed up on her escape, leading Ilyina to believe her health is fine.
“If I were sick, they would have swamped me with phone calls,” Fontanka quoted her as saying.
On Tuesday evening, Russian media reported that the hospital reported Ilyina’s escape to the police, and that a criminal investigation could be launched into the incident.
While other social media accounts reported dire conditions inside Russian quarantine, experts say the reason the number of confirmed cases in Russia remains at two is due to the strict isolation measures taken.
“[Ilyina’s] escape is shocking. This is a poorly thought out impulsive act that could have grave consequences,” infectious disease specialist Vladislav Zhemchugov told The Moscow Times.
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