Quarantine: The experience sitting all alone on Quarantine!
Corona Virus, or the Novel Coronavirus Infection was a new term for me then. I had heard of Corona infections originating in China, and spreading to the Middle East and Europe. Kerala had already reported the first ever case of infection in India - and successfully treated the patients as well. As we neared the end of February, multiple European nations were hit, and India had started imposing travel restrictions from various countries.
March 04, 2020:
I, and a few of my colleagues, became primary contacts of a case who had symptoms very similar to Corona infection and a positive history of travel to an affected country. While the said person was sent for testing, we were quite unaware of what should we be doing next. Calls were made to higher-ups, and we were told to go on "self-quarantine". People weren't wearing masks like we do now, but pharmacies in the city had already began capitalizing on the demand for masks. The ubiquitous surgical mask, which sold for less than Rs. 10 a piece, suddenly became a valuable commodity, and prices began shooting over the roof. The supply did not meet the demand, and each piece was sold at premium rates. So, we were all on "self-quarantine" - the concept of 'home quarantine' was unheard of, and applied only to people who returned from 'affected' countries then.
Day 1: March 05, 2020:
We were supposed to be quarantine till the result of the suspected case was out. If that result was positive (for the virus), the other primary contacts were to get tested. The first day was quite comfortable - it was an unexpected holiday. I used this day to clean up my house, cook delicious food and spend time watching movies on the computer. A little past afternoon, I was called up by my reporting officer to describe the development to the local police inspector. Masks weren't available, and I had to meet this officer to explain how the 'suspect' was identified, travel history and what actions were took. It seems, a rumour had already spread that there was a positive case in our campus and that we were hiding the case. I had no option, but to travel to office - I maintained, what we now know as "social distance", while talking to the police inspector (who did not bother that I was a primary contact and, supposed to be, in quarantine!). I met the suspect, who was really affected by the rumours now, and calmed down the person before returning to my 'quarantine'. Day 1 was all fine - I had plenty of work at home and I was busy!
Day 2: March 06, 2020:
It was getting a little boring. I had finished most work at home already. I didn't have much of office work either - it was the fag end of the academic year, and I didn't have to prepare notes or teaching material, either. I spent the day watching videos on YouTube - over half the day was spent watching news. I cooked small portions of the meal, and cooked multiple times to waste my time. I called the hospital, where the test sample was given, multiple times to see if the report was ready. It wasn't.
Day 3: March 07, 2020:
The test report had to come on this day. All of us were waiting with high hopes. The day crawled along slowly. I cooked my breakfast - ate it slowly. Later went to cook my lunch - prepared a small quantity of rice and some curry. Ate it slowly, then spent time cleaning the utensils. Prepared some tea in the evening - spent time. And then again spent time cooking dinner! I did not skip a single advertisement on YouTube - was really bored to even do that. By evening, I had almost lost my cool! The report wasn't ready even as the day ended. I was supposed to travel home that evening - I cancelled the trip because the report hadn't come, and I didn't want to carry home the infection! I was emotionally down - I hadn't seen my kid in few weeks, and sitting all alone with nothing to do was really killing!
Day 4: March 08, 2020:
This was a Sunday - I usually sleep until around 9AM, except when I have to go out for some work. I woke up quite early in the morning - with really nothing to do! Started off the day slowly by cooking my breakfast and prepared some tea. Some time around 10AM, I receive the news that the test report was ready. It was negative (for the virus). The suspect wasn't infected - the symptoms were due to seasonal allergy! I was really excited - and really happy for the suspect who was mentally and emotionally tormented due to the rumours and talk by others who were in quarantine. I informed my higher-ups and immediately looked at options of going home. I finally found and option, and literally rushed home (read about that here)
A word or two about Quarantine - It is a maddening situation. I was almost insane by the time my quarantine was over! It is really important to look at the mental wellbeing of people sent on Quarantine - it isn't easy sitting all alone with nothing to do. I still shudder at the very thought of being stuck all alone at my home for the duration of the lockdown. I was extremely fortunate for having taken the decision to travel home well before the nation went in for a shutdown. I might have gone nuts if was stuck in Bengaluru then. Quarantine is a necessity to ensure that asymptomatic people do not spread the infection to others. It is important, however, that family members and health workers call on people who are in quarantine and keep them engaged. This is a very important step to make sure they don't go insane!