COVID-19: BMC’s Door-To-Door Awareness Helped After I Came From NY

I humbly request all of those coming back home to self-quarantine, out of concern for our loved ones.

Updated19 Mar 2020, 10:27 AM IST
My Report
4 min read

As of today, the count of coronavirus victims in New York City is over 1,000, and more people continue to be detected and treated for the virus. The virus has disrupted lives in many ways, one of them being my graduate studies in Columbia University, New York.

The moment we were notified that our classes will now be shifted online for the rest of the semester, I had two choices. To either come home or stay quarantined in New York City. Things were escalating quickly in New York and every day we were being fed with anxiety, fear and information on possible lockdowns. I was quite impressed to see that India having recognised that the spread was happening through people coming into the country were quick to put restrictions on travel.

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This was at Newark airport, it was very crowded. Everyone was going home but no screenings.
This was at Newark airport, it was very crowded. Everyone was going home but no screenings.
(Photo courtesy: Pankti Dalal)

United States was not yet on the list of countries that had a travel ban or required mandatory quarantine.

I had reached out to the Indian embassy in New York to understand what my options were if I decided to come back home. They, unfortunately, were not able to provide answers as to what might happen once I reached the port of entry in India and recommended I do not travel.

Despite the anxiety of travel and contracting the disease, it was my parents' decision for me to come back home, and I am glad I did because I was impressed by the way India has been handling the crisis.

I chose to take a direct flight from Newark to Mumbai on 14 March so as to minimise the transit time and exposure to the virus.

I was shocked and disappointed to see that there was absolutely no screening at the Newark airport, the only criteria of travel was that only Indian passport holders would be able to fly.
Empty Mumbai airport.
Empty Mumbai airport.
(Photo courtesy: Pankti Dalal)

In contrast, the moment I landed in Mumbai, I was asked to fill a form on my travel history in the last 28 days, right off the flight. I was asked to report where I would be staying and was screened for a body temperature check. Though there was no mention of quarantine at any point, as I passed all health checks.

The very next day of having landed in Mumbai, a BMC health worker from my administrative ward showed up at my house. She informed me that she had been notified by the airport that I had recently arrived.

She (the BMC health worker) had a poster with precautions I should take and explained very nicely that I should avoid stepping out and take necessary sanitary precautions, the only odd advice I was given was to avoid eating meat.

She also took down the names and ages of family members staying at home. Later that day, I also received a call from the municipal ward office, requesting me to report my health and whether if any of my family members were exhibiting any symptoms related to the disease. I was requested to join a WhatsApp group to make it easier to report my symptoms.

I checked in with other friends who travelled with me and around the same time as me, the BMC hadn’t reached out to them. I am concerned that this was only an initiative taken by my administrative ward and not necessarily a protocol.

Seeing the way the virus has spread and evaluating the efforts made so far by the government, I must say I was shocked and rather impressed with the way Mumbai has handled the crisis.

However, I have been seeing on social media that this protocol is not necessarily being followed on other airports. As a person having travelled from abroad, I am certainly anxious that I am a carrier and while I am not exhibiting any symptoms I have decided to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

I humbly request all of those coming back home to follow the same, out of concern for our vulnerable and sick loved ones.

I also hope that while India may not have the necessary facilities to quarantine those that come from abroad, it should at least follow-up and monitor recent travellers sincerely, the way the BMC has been attempting to.

(Pankti Dalal is currently a Master’s in Public Administration student at Columbia University, New York, and a permanent resident of Mumbai, India. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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Published: 18 Mar 2020, 10:50 AM IST

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