'I think about my family, not about me': A foreign worker stricken with COVID-19 has concerns far away

'I think about my family, not about me': A foreign worker stricken with COVID-19 has concerns far away

Workers adopt safe distancing measures as they queue up for lunch at Westlite dormitory during the
FILE PHOTO: Workers adopt safe distancing measures as they queue up for lunch at Westlite dormitory during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore, April 10, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. MINISTRY OF MANPOWER SINGAPORE/Handout/via REUTERS

SINGAPORE: Throughout his encounter with the COVID-19 virus, the Bangladeshi migrant worker has been in touch with his family on a daily basis. 

But as far as they are concerned, he was ill with a fever and is since recovering. The migrant worker, who asked for his name not to be used, has not gone into specifics for fear of worrying them further.

"Bangladesh also has cases of the virus now, so they are scared," he told CNA. "It might cause tension for the family so I won't want to tell them.

"If I tell them, they will cry ... I don't feel tension for myself, I feel tension for my family, my country ... I think about my family, not about me, because I am safe in Singapore and the government here is helping to take care (of me)."

It came as a surprise to the migrant worker that he had caught the virus - he had after all taken precautions to ensure he wouldn't contract COVID-19.

"My dormitory didn't have cases (then) ... but there were (some) in other dormitories," said the migrant worker. "I thought that if I went outside and maybe if I suddenly got the virus: 'How?'. So I didn't want to go (out)."

READ: NGOs launch initiatives to help migrant workers amid COVID-19 outbreak

Since the COVID-19 outbreak had begun, the only time the migrant worker left the compound other than for work was to buy groceries from a supermarket before the "circuit breaker" measures kicked in.

"I was working, then come back to my room, working, come back to my room, and then if I wanted to eat something, I would buy it from the shop (in the dormitory)," he explained. "For months, I didn't go outside because what if I got the virus?"

So when the migrant worker started to feel feverish early last week, a growing concern built within him.

"I was feeling sick and I saw that my roommate was also feeling sick ... I couldn't sleep that night," he said.

The next morning, he went to buy medication from the dormitory shop.

"I thought it could be the tension of not being able to sleep that night that caused my body to react like that," he explained. "But the next day it was still like that, and I thought it's better to check with the doctor."

After taking his temperature, the doctor referred the migrant worker, who had a low-grade fever, to the hospital.

"My temperature was about 37.7 (degrees Celsius), so I had a fever but it wasn't high," he said. "I was a bit scared, but I was still thinking, maybe I am okay."

'THEY WERE VERY CARING'

After going through a number of checks including an x-ray, swab test and blood test at the hospital, it was a long and anxious wait for the migrant worker as he awaited test results.

"I waited for a long time, maybe seven to eight hours," he recalled. "I was stressed: 'When would the results come? What would happen?'"

READ: COVID-19: Crowding, emotional health of migrant workers at dormitories concern employers

Close to midnight, the migrant worker was told that he tested positive. He spent the next four nights in a hospital ward with several other Indian and Bangladeshi workers.

"I was scared at first, but slowly I started to be okay," he said. "I saw that the doctors really took good care of us so after that I was okay ... They were very caring."

The migrant worker, who is a devout Muslim, spent most of his time in the hospital praying, as well as calling friends and family. "Many people called," he said. "I wasn't lonely."

'IT'S BETTER THAN MY ROOM'

The migrant worker then next transferred to the community isolation facility at Singapore Expo, where he is currently staying. Expo is being used as a community isolation facility for recovering COVID-19 patients.

"I had friends staying at the Expo. So I called one of them and asked what the Expo is like," he explained. "He told me what the Expo was like and told me that it was okay to come here."

EXPO interior COVID-19 community isolation facility (2)
A Community Isolation Facility for COVID-19 patients at The Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria.

So far, he is happy with how things are at this temporary home.

"It's comfortable. Not difficult here - it's better than my room (in the dormitory). No big problem," he said. "Now that my family see that I am okay, they don't worry, we are happy."

Given that he was cautious with his interactions outside work, the migrant worker believes that he could have caught the virus at his workplace. 

READ:'Just pray, very soon I can get well': Migrant workers from dorms battle on

"There are so many companies at my workplace," he explained. "There are so many sub-contractors .... The workers come from all places in Singapore." 

And while the migrant worker is generally upbeat, there is a fear among the community given the spread of the virus, he said.

"If you see men from another room in a dormitory go on an ambulance, how does that feel? Of course, they would be scared," he said. "So many people are scared. My friends call me and they are scared. I tell them not to be scared and tell them ... not to worry."

The migrant worker believes that he will be able to return to work once he has fully recovered from the virus. 

His contract has not ended, there are mouths to feed back at home and a bank loan which he took to pay a Bangladeshi agent in order to get to Singapore.

"Now I am okay, everything is okay," he said. "God can give (the virus) but God can make me well."

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Source: CNA/mt

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