One half of a Port Dover couple quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise off the coast of Japan for almost a month says the most unnerving part of testing positive for the new coronavirus is not knowing what’s going to happen.
“You have really no idea what’s going to happen,” said Rose Yerex. “So, yeah, there’s a great amount of fear there.”
Rose and her husband Greg were two of more than 700 people infected by COVID-19 on the cruise ship forced to dock in Yokohama, Japan, early February to undergo a disease control quarantine.
Having the affair behind her and happily back at home in Norfolk County, Yerex says the unwelcome adventure began when word came down that an individual on the ship came down with the novel coronavirus.
Yerex said she and her husband — both in their late 60s — had no idea what they were in store for since neither of them had an idea for what the new coronavirus was.
“No. Other than it might have related a long time ago to the SARS incident,” Yerex said.
Not long after docking in Japan, the two were tested by masked staff members despite feeling fine.
[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]
“Both Greg and I have felt fine this whole time. So we’re what they refer to as people who had tested positive but were asymptomatic.”
After enduring a piece of swab down her throat, Yerex said the results came back three days later on Feb. 18 with her test coming back negative and Greg’s returning positive.
However, a day later, she was told there was a mistake and she was also in fact confirmed to have the infection.
That’s when the fear set in, according to Yerex.
“Yeah. Not only because of my age but because I do have asthma and I’ve had pneumonia. A number of times.”
After testing positive, Rose and Greg were transferred to a Japanese military facility off the ship.
“There is no treatment for this virus. There is nothing they can do. They can only treat the symptoms,” said Yerex.
“You’re in quarantine and they give you time for your body to try and fight it off and get rid of it. And occasionally they would come along and swab you to check to see how it’s doing.”
Yerex said testing at that point became more advanced and more uncomfortable through the use of nasal swabs.
“It was like a Q-Tip and you shove it up your nose, twirl it around, and it goes right up almost into your sinus cavity. So, yeah, very, very uncomfortable.”
At no point during the quarantine did Yerex or her husband suffer any symptoms of the virus, and the two were released after a negative test at the end of February.
The pair then flew home to Toronto where they were cleared by public health, undertaking a self-imposed quartine to ensure no family members could pick up the virus from the pair.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and the government of Japan have been much criticized for the handling of the quarantine in which more than a fifth of the ship’s original population infected with COVID-19.
Kato said the government would investigate the handling of the cruise ship after more than a dozen passengers returning home after a 14-day quarantine tested positive for the virus, with six eventually dying.
Despite a rough ride, Rose isn’t ruling out going on another cruise in the future.
“Oh, absolutely. I love it. Just not right away, though,” said Yerex, “Being here is much nicer there’s a lot more room to walk around in.”
With files from the Canadian Press