Four days ago, my niece came back to Mizoram from her hostel in Assam.
As the Government of Mizoram has issued a mandatory 14 days self-quarantine rule for anybody entering Mizoram, we followed the protocol immediately. Even though my niece came from Assam and there had been no positive cases of CoVid-19 in the North East so far, due to its long incubation period, nobody should take any risk.
Initially, I just posted about this on my WhatsApp status, about how we were doing self-quarantine for my niece, and I wasn't even planning to post it on Facebook. But then, so many of my friends responded to my WA status, and my doctor friends like Dr. Seni, Dr. John and Dr. Hluii told me to write about it on my blog so that it can have a wider reach to the Mizo masses. My cousin Dr. Mahruaii even sent me a list of steps to take during self-quarantine.
First of all, why do we need to do this, and what is the difference between Quarantine and Isolation?
I have seen a lot of people mix up the two, even at official Press Releases. The difference is subtle, and in English, they seem to mean the same thing, but in terms of Medical terminology, they are a tad different. Quarantine is when you isolate a person suspected of coming in contact with a contagious disease. That person NEED NOT be infected, and it is merely done to keep healthy people from becoming infected in case that person carried the virus. Isolation on the other hand is applied to people who are ALREADY infected, and they are kept in isolation for the same reason as above.
To prevent the spread of CoVid-19 that has already infected more than 270,000 people and caused the death of more than 11,000 people at the time of writing this article (21st March 16:00 GMT) it is of utmost importance to quarantine oneself if you have just recently travelled. The good thing is, voluntary quarantine, also known as self-quarantine, can be done at your house.
By the way, all these actions like voluntary quarantine, social distancing, self isolation, curfew, lockdown etc., are all methods to FLATTEN THE CURVE. Mind you, these are not methods to protect you from the virus, it MAY protect you but it is not a guarantee. However it will ensure that the exponential outbreak slows down gradually so that there will be enough medical facilities available to look after those who are currently affected.
In Mizoram, the main hospital that will treat CoVid-19 patients here in Mizoram is the State Referral Hospital, Falkawn (ZMC). The hospital has only seven beds for CoVid-19 patients admitted in the ICU. That number can change, can be 10 or 20, but for now, let us just assume that it is seven. So imagine if there is an outbreak and for example, 21 people get infected in one day! The hospital will definitely not be able to handle them all at once, leading to many unfortunate fatalities. But if we flatten the curve and the same 21 people get infected BUT over a period of time, say 7 new infections every 2-3 weeks, then yes, the hospital can treat everybody.
Coming back to self-quarantine, does my niece want to be self-quarantined? Of course not. But it is something every responsible citizen should do. Sure it had made our regular life a bit more difficult, but compared to the amount of sacrifices people in the medical field are making to combat this virus, this is something ALL of us should be doing with no hesitation. So, here is what we have gone through so far.
At the airport, the medical staff posted there not only screened all the passengers but instructed all of us (both passengers and recipients) on what to do, how to observe self-quarantine, what are the practices to follow while doing so, and what are the emergency numbers to contact in case they started experiencing symptoms of CoVid-19.
First and foremost, the subject should be completely isolated in a separate room within the house. He or she should also have his/her own bathroom that should not be shared by any other family members. And so I moved into my niece's bedroom because she didn't have an attached bathroom and she moved into my bedroom.
Food should also be served to the person in the room itself, and once the empty plates and cutleries are collected, they should be thoroughly sanitized along with your hands.
Entering the room where the self-quarantined person is staying is also discouraged unless it is absolutely necessary. I entered her room (technically my room) only once, and it was because my sister from Malaysia wanted to video-call with her while she was having dinner.
Awww, poor little thing right?
Now we’re on day 4 of her self-quarantine.
Luckily for us, electricity and internet is good, so my niece is not THAT bored staying locked up in that room. Since most kids today are used to socializing with friends online anyway, she didn't have to make much drastic changes to her existing lifestyle. Every morning she would shout from the room reminding us how many days are remaining for her self-quarantine to be over, lolz.
Also this was a good opportunity for her to study and prepare for her upcoming exams. Here is me taking a picture of her studying from outside the window, I had to climb up the terrace from downstairs just to click these pictures, lolz.
And so, that is basically us. Other than that, life is still the same for us, and we too have avoided going outside the house as well.
To be honest though, we are fortunate enough to have a separate room for my niece to self-quarantine. There are other families out there who do not have the luxury of having a spare room for self-quarantine. In such cases, the state government has created centers for self-quarantine, like Tourist Lodges, Govt schools, Tourist Complex Beraw Tlang, etc., (Contact the Aizawl District Task Force for complete details).
Meanwhile, other people are also trying their best to self-quarantine, like my friend Hmaii. They didn't have a room to spare in their house for her sisters who were returning home to Mizoram, and so they placed two beds in their empty "basement" downstairs and made them sleep there.
No furniture, no decorations, no wallpapers or tiles, just bare cement walls and pillars with two beds. But that is how serious people are taking this. That will be their world for the next few days.
So this is my blog update for now. I hope I was able to shine some light into how this whole self-quarantine experience feels like. There's a lot more updates coming up, especially since we don't have anything much to do at home now. Just remember to stay safe, stay at home, keep sanitizing your hands, and pray for all the wonderful medical staff out there who are battling this for us. Cheers for now everyone.