First infected Belgian coronavirus patient speaks about life in quarantine

First infected Belgian coronavirus patient speaks about life in quarantine
Philip Soubry was kept in isolation at the St-Pierre hospital in Brussels for two weeks. Credit: Screengrab © VRT NWS

Philip Soubry, the first Belgian who was infected with the coronavirus, Covid-19, left the St Pieter hospital in Brussels on Saturday 15 February, but was quarantined since Monday 3 February.

Soubry spoke about his experiences as the first, and so far only, Belgian who was infected with the virus in an interview with De Morgen.

For almost two weeks, Soubry stayed in a hermetically sealed hospital room of four by five, with a bed, a table, a chair, an armchair and a television. The windows could not open, but there was a large ventilation system on the ceiling. In an airlock in front of the entrance door, the staff could leave food and objects to pass on to him.

When a nurse wanted to enter Soubry's room, it took about 15 minutes to dress according to strict procedures: mouth mask, glasses, hairnet, blue protection suit.

Despite the strict regulations, the staff was very friendly, Soubry told De Morgen. "The doctor even gave me a handshake, which is strongly discouraged in China," he said. He did not come into contact with people in China who were showing symptoms, he said. His wife, who is Chinese, visited her parents, they were also not sick.

"Chances are she has the virus as well, but I told her she should stay away from the overcrowded hospitals as long as she doesn't have any symptoms. So she just stayed at home but went outside to do some shopping. Someone told on her to the government, probably an employee of the factory. They came to seal the house and now she's not allowed to set foot outside," he said, adding that she has been instructed to take her temperature a few times a day.

"She has meat in the freezer, fortunately. When I left, it still had 4.3 kilos of steak, half a kilo of stew and some vol-au-vent," Soubry said. "I feel so sorry for her. If I'd known, I'd have forced her to come with me to Belgium," he added.

Aside from worrying about his wife, Soubry was mainly bored during his quarantine. "I'm an outdoors person, always out, always in company," he said, adding that he is not good at sitting still and waiting.

Before he came to Belgium, he had to stay inside for two weeks in China, then he spent 40 hours on the repatriation flight and one day in quarantine in the military hospital of Neder-Over-Heembeek.

On 3 February, he was brought to the St Pieter's hospital in Brussels, and he stayed there until 15 February. "A human being would be depressed for less," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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