An Ontario doctor became the first COVID-19 case in one of India’s biggest cities — and now she’s trapped in that country with her two-year old son, who has also tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Nazia Syed, who works as a physician at Mackenzie Richmond HIll Hospital, left for Lucknow, India to visit her family in the beginning of March, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
She felt ill shortly after arriving and then tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first case in her hometown of nearly three million people.
Syed remained alone in quarantine at a government-run hospital for nearly two weeks before finally being allowed to leave.
“Living in that institution in a small room for 11 days was difficult, but this is, like, terrible,” she said.
“I was hoping once I was out that would be it, but it’s just been one thing after the other.”
She finally reunited with her husband, son and her in-laws, who had to get tested as a precautionary measure.
That’s when they found out that her two-year-old son, Haider had tested positive — along with her mother-in-law and her father-in-law.
“I’m devestated,” said Syed. “I feel guilty; I feel responsible for all of this.
“I’m scared, as well.”
Syed says their treatment since Haider tested positive on Sunday has been ‘terrible,’ since there’s a strong stigma surrounding the virus in India.
“It was quite dirty, there was feces on the bed sheets, there were mosquitos and rats,” said Syed.
Syed adds that hospital staff were even hesitant to treat or interact with them.
“We were just locked up from outside, literally somebody put a lock on the outside of the door and they were leaving,” said Syed.
“We asked for water and we asked for breakfast and they just said ‘stay away, stay away,'” said Syed. “It was very inhumane.”
Syed adds that she and her son are in quarantine at a better facility, away from her husband and other family members.
Now, she’s concerned of how they’ll be treated moving forward.
“It’s not the doctors,” added Syed. “It’s the higher administration that are impulsive and they don’t bother to inform you about anything, there’s no rational discussion.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in late March that the Canadian government was working with airlines to repatriate citizens abroad, including thousands in India.
Syed said her family won’t get on those flights until her son has been given a clean bill of health.
She adds that Lucknow’s regulations require two tests with negative results to get the all-clear.
But after that, she’ll need help getting out of the country immediately.
“My main aim is to try and get out as soon as possible, back to Canada,” she said,
She believes it’ll be a difficult task with the lack of flights coming to and from Canada and India possibly maintaining its lockdown.
Syed said she plans to reach out to Global Affairs Canada as soon as her son starts feeling better and hopes they’ll provide some assistance.
Global Affairs Canada has told Global News “we wish to remind Canadians outside the country who are directly impacted by COVID-19 that they are eligible to apply for the Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad to facilitate their return to Canada and to cover basic essential needs while they work towards their return.
“Each application will be assessed according to their specific situation and needs.”
It adds that there are currently 26,757 Canadians registered with the Registration of Canadians Abroad in India and that it has helped 744 Canadians and permanent residents return.
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