Opinion

'I don't want to stay another 10 days': Life in Canada under coronavirus quarantine

Myriam Larouche, Canadian student and Wuhan evacuee, discusses 10 days in quarantine at CFB Trenton

Every day is starting to look the same. Yesterday, a friend of mine mentioned it was Sunday—I didn’t even know it was the weekend; I thought it was the middle of the week.

When we first arrived in Trenton, the first week was all about adjusting. I had to adjust to the time change, being home in Canada, and living in quarantine. The second week is all about trying to get my life back on track.

On Monday, my graduate classes start again so I’ll have to focus on my online coursework, learning Mandarin and my thesis research. I was in a “vacation mindset” before, but I have to change that and focus on school.

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The common area to grab coffee, tea or hot chocolate at CFB Trenton (Myriam Larouche)

I found being on lockdown in Wuhan was harder on me, mentally. I was away from home, and in the middle of the crisis. When I first got to Trenton, I was exhausted. I just wanted to be in bed all day. It was almost like healing from a heartbreak. But it’s getting easier—I’m getting more motivated now that school is starting up again.

I’ve always been good at being on my own. My mother raised me and my five siblings to be independent, so that we can face any situation. Before moving to Wuhan for my master’s degree, I also completed year-long foreign exchange program in Spain. So even though I’m by myself here in quarantine, I’m not lonely.

For people who aren’t used to being in isolation or those who don’t know how to fill their time and keep busy, it would be mentally tough to be here. There are social and mental health supports available to us while we’re in quarantine.

MORE: ‘It felt like the end of the world’: From Wuhan to Canada in coronavirus quarantine

During my daily health checks, the medical professionals always ask how I’m doing. The easy answer is always, “Good, how are you?” That’s why I think it’s helpful that Red Cross also offered a helpline, so that we can call if we’re struggling with this process. We’ve also been told we can speak to the on-site individuals from the Red Cross, who are now familiar faces around here.

I haven’t called the helpline or felt any changes in my mood or demeanour, but I have noticed that I’m more chatty with strangers now. In the hotel, there’s a common area where we can get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or any supplies we need. I usually plan to go out and grab a coffee, but I end up staying for 20-to-30 minutes, chatting with the others who are also in quarantine.

The handmade Valentine’s Day card placed under Myriam Larouche’s door at CFB Trenton (Myriam Larouche)

One resident recognized me from the news, and we shared stories about what brought us to Wuhan. He, his wife and child live there. Another resident is a flight attendant and he has plans to go home to Montreal after all of this is done. One resident was also concern that the quarantine would be extended because of news reports about the incubation period being 24 days, not 14 days, like we originally thought. When I heard that, I thought, “I really hope not.” I really don’t want to stay another 10 days. (At present, there is no indication that our quarantine will be extended.)

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When I was in Spain, and later in Wuhan, I had a few “low points.” I missed home so much that I sobbed. Though that hasn’t happened in Trenton, I’m ready to get out. I talked to a few other residents—particularly those who are staying with their entire families in one room or who have young children—who are also starting to get antsy. I’ve seen at least eight kids, ranging from babies to children around seven years old, and this must be tedious for them and their parents. Even though we’re in a hotel, and there is a small play area set up, it’s easy to run out of things to do. I haven’t been able to work out; there are no amenities like a gym or a pool. It’s basically the room, the common area and outside.

On Valentine’s Day, a handmade card with a purple dinosaur and Canadian flags on the front, was slipped under my door. “Welcome back hope you have a good day. I hope you like the card,” it read. And on the back, it was signed by  a student named Lily from St. Mary’s school in Trenton. I’ve been receiving similar messages of love and support on social media from users from Newfoundland all the way to British Columbia, but this card felt extra special because it was a sent from someone on the outside, on a day that was all about love.

When I first got here, I was thrilled to be home. Now, I’m excited to be in the homestretch. There’s a few days left and after that, I’ll be free.

—As told to Ishani Nath