A retired emergency room nurse from Kamloops is relieved to be returning home this weekend after a coronavirus scare during a two-week trip to Egypt.
Debbie Ryan had been in the country since the end of February and embarked on a Nile River boat tour from Aswan to Luxor earlier this week when she was met by a medical team wearing hazmat suits.
Ryan said she was among approximately 30 people tested for COVID-19 by medical officials aboard the boat known as The Opera when it docked in Luxor.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Ryan told KTW from the Egyptian city. “They just said, ‘You can’t get off this ship. We’re going to test you.”
The testing occurred days following a coronavirus quarantine of The Asara cruise ship, which travelled the same route along the Nile the week before.
“We all knew there had been a ship quarantined off Luxor and we’re also COVID alert here,” Ryan said.
Passengers and crew were given throat and nasal swabs, with samples placed in labelled containers to be sent for testing, the results of which were expected back in 48 hours, Ryan said.
Though she expected passengers would be held aboard the ship until the test results came in, Ryan said she was surprised when health officials permitted passengers to disembark that afternoon, when testing wrapped.
“All of a sudden, boom, we can get off the ship,” Ryan said, adding it was her understanding they would wait for test results.
She said she spent the next two days touring temples in the Valley of the Kings, not knowing whether she had COVID-19.
“I’m just surprised we were let off the ship to be with multitudes of people when we didn’t know our test results,” Ryan said.
To her relief, her tour guide called two days later and told her he was informed none of the passengers or crew had tested positive.
What had also been a concern for Ryan — a critical-care nurse of 35 years — was that officials who conducted the testing didn’t use proper sterile techniques.
She said used hazmat suits were left on tables in the lounge, where passengers were gathered and one man went through a dinner line while wearing his protective gear.
Ryan said the officials also didn’t appear to have cleaning supplies with them and wore only dust masks, rather than the proper N95 models.
She sais some officials also touched surfaces without changing gloves.
As a nurse, Ryan said, it was exhausting to witness.
“They were so disorganized, so very poorly trained and what they were doing was cross-contaminating all of us on that ship,” she said.
Ryan said she was feeling a bit congested and had a runny nose as of Thursday.
Ryan is now in Cairo and is scheduled to leave for Canada on Saturday, with stops at London Heathrow Airport and Vancouver International Airport before touching down in Kamloops.
She said she has asked her husband, who is in Kamloops, to contact public health for advice on whether she should self-isolate upon return.
“I’ve got a dinner party coming up. I won’t be going to that, I won’t be looking after my grandchildren, I’ll just be stuck at home,” Ryan said.
Meanwhile a couple from Kamloops is currently at a military base in Trenton, Ont., having been among the hundreds of passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, forcing it to idle off the California coast for days.
Wray McClelland and his wife, who did not wish to give her name, were screened, cleared for the virus and allowed to board a flight back to Canada, where they are now in quarantine for two weeks at CFB Trenton, according to News 1130 in Vancouver.