Carlo Navarro with his wife Evie and daughter Gia while wearing face masks and gloves during a trip to Tokyo. AP
They wore masks and gloves and always had alcohol handy to sanitise their hands.
But Navarro, a 48-year-old tax lawyer, began showing symptoms after they returned home. He became the first Filipino to be officially confirmed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. There are now 552 confirmed cases and 35 deaths in the country.
He has since recovered, and as someone who felt he had been close to death, vowed to spread awareness.
The Associated Press asked Navarro five questions about his experience in a telephone interview as he continues his self-quarantine on his farm in Lipa, Philippines.
Q: Where do you suspect you got the virus?
A: "The entire time that we were in Japan, there was really no contact with anyone that had a cough or cold. But on our way back ... I was seated in front of a person, a Filipino person who was coughing vigorously. My daughter told me, 'Dad, I think it's dangerous to sit there. You need to move right now.' I couldn't move because the plane was about to take off. So it took me another 20 minutes before I could transfer to another seat. And true enough, seven days after we arrived back in the Philippines, I started to develop chills and my temperature was fluctuating. And that night of March 3, I started coughing vigorously. So the following morning, I decided to go to St. Luke’s (hospital) ... to have myself tested. That's the start of my journey as a COVID-19 patient."
Q: What does it feel like to be a patient?
A: "In the hospital, the coughing persisted. The chills were still there. And then there were muscle pains. My entire body was aching. On the third day, it started to disappear. Like the muscle pains are gone. The chills ... they came and went. But my cough was still there. It was on the fifth or sixth day that I started to have diarrhea. And the doctor got scared. ... That evening, they X-rayed me and they were able to confirm that pneumonia was beginning to develop in my lungs. By then, the chills were back. And then, that evening of the sixth day, I got a fever. ... Those were the symptoms that I was experiencing.”
Q: How were you able to cope?
A: "I was alone in the hospital room because nobody can visit you, not even your family members. So we are really in isolation. It's a negative pressure room. My wife and I had video calls almost every hour. She was checking on me to make sure that I've eaten, that I drank enough water. ... And every time I felt fear, I would immediately call my wife and my daughter just to suspend the reality that I was in a hospital.”
Q: What was the scariest moment for you?
A: "The scariest moment was maybe starting on the fourth day when people who got admitted at the same time as me started dying early in the morning. You know, you would hear people crying or wailing because they had lost their loved ones... I could hear the running of the nurses and doctors outside of my room. And that really scared me. When I asked the nurses, “How are the other patients doing?'' one of them said, 'Sir, number 5. number 6, they died already.' And they were just beside me. That was the most frightening moment of my life."
Q. What’s the message you want to share with the public about your experience?
A: "I want you to know that once you have symptoms, you need to immediately isolate yourself. There's no way you can take the risk that the elderly or high-risk groups in your family will get contaminated or will get the virus. You need to go to the hospital to get yourself tested. If they don't have the testing kits, you just need to stay home and isolate yourself. It's important that people know that they should not fear going to the hospital and that's the only way you can protect your loved ones.”
The Philippines recorded three additional coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under "community quarantine" for about a month beginning on Sunday.
Taimur Saleem Jhagra, the Health Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, where both victims died, told AFP the men had recently travelled internationally.
This statement was made in a circular issued by the Ministry of Education and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA, as a preventive and precautionary measure to ensure the safety of students and in line with the national efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.
He had been scheduled to re-emerge on Friday after a week of recovery and working remotely, but said he would remain at home because he still had a high temperature — one of the symptoms.
The Department of Dhafra Hospitals affiliated to the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company “Seha” opens today “Monday” the screening centre for covid-19 in Madinat Zayed, next to Madinat Zayed Council in Al Dhafra Region. The centre’s daily capacity reaches up to 300 people.
The ministry also announced that 19 cases fully recovered from the coronavirus, after receiving treatment.