Keeping people well during quarantine

Central to the goal of keeping people psychologically well during their time in confinement in a quarantine facility will be the fact that social support has been found, over and over again, to be the most important factor when people go through some kind of emergency. So, availability of facilities like wifi, real-time video calls, messaging systems, as well as offering structure and routine to help people occupy themselves usefully, or at least comfortably, during their days and nights become critical to the success of the quarantine period.

However, if people feel cornered or blamed, then they’re more likely to hide away, and possibly break quarantine to try to get support, or because they feel scared and targeted.

Training healthcare workers with psychosocial and counselling skills, and/or having native speaker counsellors available will be important too. There is still considerable stigma around use of mental health services, and this may be especially true for people from Asian communities – so how this is framed and offered becomes critical. More widely, countering stigmatising reports in the media or hearsay and incorrect and mischievous or malicious content on the internet is very challenging but really important in today’s highly networked environment.

Making sure things like medicines are at hand and not locked away in baggage that is not easy to access or lost needs to be made clear at point of transit to the quarantine facility. Food that is acceptable to the people being quarantined is also important – having control over such a basic item goes a long way in improving wellbeing and sense of comfort, and is a really quick way to reinforce people’s lack of agency if you get this wrong.

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