GAZA CITY: “I was shocked, I could not accept it. I could not believe I was infected, there was fear and anxiety. I thought about what would happen to my children after my death.” This was how Mohammed Sarhan responded when he was informed by the Palestinian Health Ministry that he was infected with coronavirus.
Sarhan, 30, has been working as a chef at the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem for two years, along with his five brothers, two of whom are also infected. He is married and has three children, ranging in age from 3 to 6 years old.
“We were informed that we should come to the hotel on March 4, and samples were taken from us after a Greek tourist group that stayed at the hotel had discovered they were infected with coronavirus after returning to Greece,” he told Arab News in interview over the phone. He added “The next morning, we were informed that seven people working at the hotel were infected, but we were all put in quarantine inside the hotel. On March 6, I was informed that I was infected along with others.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry recorded the infection of 38 Palestinians, all in the city of Bethlehem except for one case in the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.
The Palestinian government subsequently declared a state of emergency for a month, suspended schools and universities, closed cafes and restaurants, prevented gatherings in Palestinian cities and announced the closure of the borders with Jordan, as well as the closure of mosques and churches.
Sarhan is staying with 29 other infected cases of COVID-19 at the Angel Hotel, which the ministry has designated as a quarantine center, with a doctor who checks them daily.
Although Sarhan was shocked at first, he received a lot of support from the Palestinians who contacted him via Facebook, which gave him strength to cope with the situation.
“In the beginning, I was thinking that death was inevitable. The situation was frightening, I was thinking about my family, and how my children will live after me, but over time I realized that this will come to an end and I will return to my normal life,” he said.
His daily routine has not changed in the quarantine, because he goes to sleep at midnight and gets up at half past seven in the morning — but he does not go to work.
“Neither my siblings nor I have had any symptoms since we were quarantined. I am in very good health, eating my breakfast, spending most of my time on Facebook and TikTok, and talking to my wife and children and to my father and mother.”
“My mother was the most affected at the beginning, but gradually she is feeling more at ease. She was crying all the time, but now she is used to it and knows that we are in good health and that the crisis will be over soon.”
He used to cook food daily for guests at the hotel, but today he takes the meals that are brought in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and he also takes C & D vitamins that were provided to them by the ministry.
“I miss the Maqlouba, the traditional dish which I used to cook for myself and for my family. The food they provide us is not perfect but I cannot complain. I have to deal with the reality in which I live; it is not in my normal life.”
Sarhan does not expect his life to return to normal after his release from quarantine and his recovery from coronavirus, at least in the first period, and there will be no normal interaction with relatives and neighbors.
“I miss my family, I miss cuddling my sons, who also miss me, and I wait for the day when this nightmare ends. This is the only thing I care about for now.”