“For two months, we were locked up in a building at Wuhan. The situation was very, very scary”

Gaurav Shukla, 34, from Uttar Pradesh, was working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Wuhan University in China. He flew back to India with 112 others and landed at an isolation camp

Ranvijay Singh
| Updated: Last updated on March 23rd, 2020,

The novel Coronavirus has claimed more than 9,000 lives across the globe. More than 3,000 have died in China alone. Many Indians were stuck in China when the epidemic started claiming lives in December 2019. Since February 2020, many Indians have been flown back from China and are being sent to isolation wards in Delhi as a precautionary measure. Gaurav Shukla from Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. In a telephonic conversation with Gaon Connection’s Ranvijay Singh, he talks about the situation in Wuhan and his journey back to India.

When did you arrive in India and from where?

I flew from Wuhan (China) on the intertwining night of February 26-27 and arrived in Delhi on the morning of February 27 at 6:30. We were taken to the ITBP camp in Delhi in a bus. There were isolation wards on the fifth floor. There were 2-3 people in one room. Those with families were given separate rooms. The girls and the boys had separate wards. Fifty-six of us who had arrived from Wuhan were kept in a separate ward. Of the 112 of who had taken that flight, there were people from Bangladesh, Maldives and Myanmar. There were some diplomats as well. Our embassy and a few others from the Air Force helped us a lot. They stayed with us in Wuhan for nine days and helped us fly back.

What was the isolation ward in Delhi like?

We were two in a room. A medical student from Haryana was in my room. We were kept at a distance. It was a big room. It was perfect. The doctors would come twice a day for check-ups. They would monitor our temperature and check our blood pressure. We were given breakfast at 8 am. After 45 minutes, the doctors would examine us one by one. The morning check-ups were conducted daily. The evening check-ups would happen on alternate days. If we had any BP-related problem, they would give us medicines.

For how many days did you stay in this isolation ward?

I arrived at the ITBP camp on February 27. We were released from there after 14 days, on March 13. All 112 of us were sent home only after they got our reports from Pune and all of us tested negative.

How was it to be isolated?

All of us were mentally exhausted because for two months we were locked up in a building in Wuhan. The situation was really bad. There was a food crisis especially after the administration announced that they would shut all the food malls. They would call us at a specific place. There used to be long queues. Around 50-60 people were made to stand at a distance of 1-2 meters and were given food. The food was really bad. We thought we would die after eating that food. We had to pay twice the amount for everything. People were facing many problems, especially those who were staying outside the university campus. I was staying in a hostel outside. People were helping, but they were not helping directly. Like, they would provide us an app and ask us to order food on that. Then we had to go to a particular place and collect whatever food we had ordered. People were getting nervous. We then got in touch with the embassy. They made arrangements for us and flew us back.

What precautions have you been asked to take?

We have been asked to live in home isolation for 14 days. There is a spare room outside my house. This is where I live. I don’t go out. I maintain a distance from my family members. I don’t talk to anyone. They keep my food outside. I go and collect it after five minutes. I am closed in my room as I am talking to you. This is good for my family. This is a new virus so people don’t know much about this. Though all my tests are negative, but, you know, in India people spread rumours. I don’t step out so that people in my society don’t panic. I will think about stepping out only after 14 days.

There are many who are arriving in India and are running away from the isolation camps. What do you have to say about them?

They are doing the wrong thing. All those who are coming from the European countries or the Gulf countries, they are not taking precautions. They are coming without wearing masks. They are taking this very lightly. I have lived at a place that was the epicentre. I have seen what it is like. I want to appeal to people to not take it lightly. You are putting your families in danger. You are also putting those in danger who are coming in contact with you. You are putting your co-passengers in danger. Please don’t do this. Get yourself checked so that you and your families are safe.

Text: Swati Subhedar