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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Chp 830. Lockdown... again.

Today, the streets were empty once again, reviving memories of a ghost town not too long ago, of the Ides of March when this pandemic first reached Mizoram. Starting today, 11th September, 2020, a lockdown had been declared across Aizawl again, as Mizoram saw its highest infection in a single day - 141 new cases!

Eerie, empty and desolate, not a single soul or vehicle on the road, not even a stray cat in sight, except for a few solitary individuals quickly walking past our house in vigilant but nervous steps, on their way to the Local Council office to get a permit to travel outside our locality.

I too went to the LC office earlier today to get a permit for my niece, who's appearing for an entrance exam tomorrow. The sight that greeted me on my way was discomforting.

As I walked on the empty road alone towards the LC office, all the houses adjacent to the road were locked up, just like the previous lockdowns. But what made today very different was that, at most of the houses, there was this prominent notice stuck on the gate or door in large, bold letters: "HOME QUARANTINE. Visitors strictly forbidden. By Order, Chaltlang Local Level Task Force."

House after house, the notice was displayed! This was apparently for those household members who had come in contact with the new positive cases, pending tests.

Suddenly, it hit me, these weren't just the people I had read about on the news, these weren't numbers or statistics I received on a WhatsApp forward message, these were actual people I know personally. My dear friend Jerusha's house, Uncle Kaia's shop, Nu BSi's medical store, the recently opened "Desi Choka" restaurant, the kind-hearted carpenter who used to repair our furniture, KTP leader Robert's house, and so on, just to name a few. All of them had this sign displayed outside their respective houses.

As I stood there still stupefied at what was happening around me, I tried to peep inside their house from where I was standing in the middle of the road without breathing (not sure why I was so damn curious or why I was even holding my breath), but I could see that even their windows were bolted shut from inside, curtains down, voices silenced. No signs of life from the outside world. It was like that scene straight out of a zombie apocalypse movie.

I continued walking towards the LC office, precariously.

After I explained the reason why I needed the permit and showed the LC officials the required documents, my request was granted and I collected the permit (thank you, Tlantea and Faka). I walked back to my house, passing by all those Quarantined houses once more. The surreal experience continued.

141 new positive cases in one day may not be a huge number for my friends outside Mizoram, especially when most Indian states are registering new cases in thousands and ten thousands (23K in Maharashtra and 10K in Andhra Pradesh on the same day Mizoram got 141). But for a tiny state like Mizoram where we are a close-knitted community and people had been very careful since the beginning of the pandemic, 141 is a very huge number.

For perspective, let me explain it this way. I have more friends in Pune than I do here in Aizawl. In Maharashtra, there are already more than a 10,00,000 infected, whereas in Mizoram the total so far as of today is less than 1,400. And yet, my friends in Pune hardly know anybody personally (a friend, a relative, a colleague etc) who is infected, whereas almost all my friends here in Aizawl now know somebody who is infected or quarantined.

And that is why this lockdown feels so different from the earlier lockdowns. When you know such people personally, it hits much close to home, literally speaking.

From the looks of it, most of the new infections and community transmissions seem to be from the recent Local Body election, which I blogged about here. Many of the new cases were those officials on election duty. Did they contract the virus from the voters? Did they spread the virus to other voters? We don't know all that right now, with contact tracing still in progress, but I'm planning to write about contact tracing in Mizoram on my next blog update, so do stay tuned for that.

As of now, the opposition party members are blaming the ruling party for conducting the election against their objections, which is expected of them to do. But I will not be political in my blog updates, at least for now. I'm not blaming the government, and at the same time I'm not not blaming the government, is what I'm trying to say. Other people of course have the right to criticize.

Meanwhile, let's continue to pray for all our friends and family who are infected or under quarantine so that we can flatten this curve once again. Love and prayers. Take care for now.

(Ps. I wrote this blog post last night but there was no internet in my locality, both WiFi and phone data were down, so I am updating it today, without changing any of the dates or tenses, hope you understand).

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