PANDEMIC + SLUMP IN ECONOMY + LOCKDOWN
India’s nation-wide phase-one lock-down started from 25th March to 14th April 2020. The conditions in Chennai were getting worse, and I have not visited home for more than two months. I had to travel amid the pandemic to take care of my dad, who is alone in Erode. On 25th April, early morning, I planned to go home (Erode) by getting e-pass along with my mother, who works in Vellore. We traveled in a car, and there was strict checking at every district border. Going home had never been this tough. My heartbeat used to raise whenever I reached a district border check post, and those were rare moments that I’ll always remember. The toll fee was increased by 5-15% than the normal days despite the country being under lock-down. While bypassing the villages along the highways, anyone can witness the lack of awareness about the on-going pandemic. The children were enjoying their lock-down holidays by playing and adult gatherings along the roads.
Once I reached home, I planned to isolate myself in my room. During the initial spread of the virus in Tamil Nadu, Erode district had a notable number of COVID-19 positive cases, and there were containment zones in some parts of the city. Daily, social welfare workers surveyed every house in my locality to keep track of the people with travel history. Despite knowing that they will take me to the quarantine facility, my dad informed the surveyors about my travel from Chennai. The corona positivity rate in Chennai raised rapidly by 27th April due to the massive spread from the Koyambedu market. The neighboring and other districts got alarmed by this news and started to take severe steps in containing the people from Chennai. Eventually, I left ahead of the four-day entire metropolitan city lock-down, which included Chennai.
My self-quarantined days were not bad, and I was quite engaged with my work and e-learning courses. On 3rd May morning, I got calls from a few unknown numbers, and there was an ambulance waiting to take me to the quarantine facility. I had no choice other than boarding and following the health-care worker’s instructions. This scenario might have created a panic for the people in the neighborhood.
The government had temporarily undertaken the regional institution hostels as quarantine facilities. The hostel rooms were dark, had no electricity for three to four hours. Each room had two occupants with the individual metal cots positioned at a 2m interval. The other occupant traveled on 2nd May and voluntarily came forward to quarantine himself. Our conversations were short, and we were more engaged with our mobile devices most of the time.
It’s already summer, and temperature ranges from 38 – 40 degrees Celsius. Despite having a fan, we couldn’t sleep on the metal cot, which absorbed all the heat during the daytime. My roommate couldn’t sleep over the cot, and he had to sleep on the floor without any mattress. The first day went on, pondering with the question that when this quarantine will end? The use of shared amenities like water purifiers, restrooms, and washbasins by around 50 people on a floor questioned the idea of quarantine. The quarantine facility took good care of the suspected people with all of our basic needs. I assume that to provide this care, it should cost at least Rs.400 per individual daily. By the end of the second day, doctors and staff came to the quarantine facility to take the swab samples for the corona test. The medical staff collects the patient’s data separately; the quarantine facilitators from the department of social welfare and revenue does it independently. The quarantine facilitators data list got my age as 35, while all other records state it as 25. It should be a typographical error, but people might lose trust over the officials in such instances.
On my third day of the quarantine, Collector had ordered to discharge all the suspected people with negative corona tests, and to self-quarantine themselves at their home for the next 30 days. By noon, the officials planned and figured a way to send us off to our respective places. I, along with five people from my neighborhood, boarded the ambulance to get back home. We couldn’t follow the social distancing norms inside the ambulance, and nobody cared about it. All of us were in the mindset to escape from here and reach as soon as possible.
The self-quarantine and social isolation methods were much better than the quarantine facilities. The officials were trying their best to provide proper care, and some things were beyond their powers. I presume that you have something to take away from my quarantine experience. I’ll end this post with the question which is unsettling in every individual’s mind. When will this pandemic end?
PS: I couldn’t have managed those three hard days without the support of my family, friends, and colleagues. The COVID-19 test results are negative and I am still under self-quarantine.