I changed cities today. The prospect of visiting home and spending the remaining days of lockdown cycling to the farm was an appealing prospect. The rules of movement between states in India is in a state of confusion right now. The choice of how states want to deal with the arrival of people is left to them. While some states have imposed a mandatory institutional quarantine on new arrivals, some have let people self isolate in their homes. Maharashtra has a 14 day home quarantine rule for those coming into the state. This made the decision to fly back home easier. I flew out of a nearly empty airport in Bangalore this morning. On arrival in Nagpur, the airport authorities checked for body temperature and stamped a quarantine seal on the left palm. The ink is strong enough to last 14 days.
Our district, Wardha, has been a green zone with negligible number of Covid-19 cases. It has a protocol for those entering the district. This meant that there was a police check post at the border of Nagpur and Wardha. As soon as the car got into Wardha district border, it was stopped at a check post and the names of all those traveling in the car were recorded by the police. Since I had flown into Nagpur and the car was picking me up from the airport, there was no requirement of an ePass for movement. From here, the visitors are directed to go straight to the Civil Hopital in the town to a Fever Clinic. This is where a medical checkup of the visitors will be done and their details recorded by the health department – name, age, body temperature, arrival day, origin, prior exposure to any Covid-19 case etc. If the visitor is running a high temperature then he is kept under observation in an isolation ward at the hospital. After this check up the visitor is advised to send a copy of the report to a police department phone number via whatsapp. This probably helps them in closing the loop of process for a visitor. It was afternoon by the time I completed that and arrived home.
It is remarkable how this process was completely manual – entries handwritten into a register, medical reports scribbled on photocopied forms and stamping of arms with quarantine status. Yet, it seemed to work effectively and smooth. The resources with which Covid-19 surveillance and response is being carried out in the district is quite inadequate. And yet, they have managed to keep a household level watch.
The day had been a bit long. Flying in these times does not seem as straightforward anymore. Obvious, in a way. But the feeling of something wrong with the world and that a disease is spreading is more real with the sight of few people, empty airports and parked planes. For India, these are extraordinary sights. This country is way too populated for this situation of near abandonment to have happened ever.
It is peak summer in Central India. The town feels like a hot air oven, baking everything within it. It was good to see the place after five months. This has been the longest I have stayed away from the town in the last few years. The region is waiting for the rains. It also seems calm and less nervous about the prevailing lockdown. The streets are nearly empty. More importantly, the roads in the municipal limits were undergoing renovation all of last year and this one. But most of that work now lies abandoned. So there is a frozen feeling about the town with roads dug up and earth moving equipment seems to have paused in action.
The pandemic seems a different beast in the cities than towns of the size of Wardha. At the end of the day, the thought of having crossed three borders hit hard. Here we are with borders being reinforced within the country and within states. It has made a comeback at every level. All it took was the threat of an infectious disease. Borders have made a comeback into our lives.