Experiences of COVID-19 recovered patients – reflections from the deep end

The COVID-19 pandemic has jolted almost all nations, including those with some of the strongest healthcare systems in the world. As contagious as COVID-19 is, it is imperative to maintain social distancing, or more rightly called physical distancing, to keep its spread suppressed. This may be a challenge in populated areas that always carry the risk of becoming a hotspot should the coronavirus emerge there. These places are more likely to be placed under lockdown as a measure to suppress the spread. Nakkasah is one such area in Makkah city in Saudi Arabia – overly populated with poor sanitation posing healthcare risks to the residents, and representing the lower socio-economic class where the majority of people work on daily wages. The area became a hotspot due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and was put under lockdown from April until June 2020. Long after the lockdown was lifted, we, the student researchers, interviewed randomly selected 12 residents there who were infected with COVID-19 and then recovered, to gain an insight into their experience.

It turned out that the residents who were more active social media users were well aware of what was happening around the world related to the pandemic and what precautionary measures to observe. The residents with one or more long-term diseases such as diabetes and hypertension suffered from more serious symptoms of COVID-19 than others as well as worsening of their pre-existing diseases. The medication supply for long-term conditions during the lockdown was interfered which made the situation worse for them. The majority of them believed that they contracted the virus by being in close contact with the infected. They highlighted that the residents, in general, were not observing the precautionary measures as strictly as they were during the lockdown believing that the healthcare risk has subsided. Some residents reported mental suffering due to the stress of being under lockdown, not being in contact with family and friends and not knowing what would happen next; others reported the adverse impact on their financial situation due to having no work during the lockdown. Because of the direct intervention of the Ministry of Health to control the situation, the residents reported good care of COVID-19 patients with an adequate supply of medicines to control COVID-19 symptoms and designated places to isolate severely ill patients.

There can be numerous lessons drawn from our findings to recommend the plans for such areas around the globe in order to alleviate the sufferings of the local residents on the ground level, during this pandemic, and in future disease outbreaks.

As we write, more details are available via pre-print article (not peer-reviewed) of our project. It is also under review for publication in British Medical Journal Open. You can also watch and hear a summary of the project from one of us in a YouTube video by clicking here.

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