No matter where you are in the world, I’m sure you’ve heard of the havoc caused by Covid-19 or the spread of the highly infectious Coronavirus.

About a month or two ago, this disease was contained, and then it made it to Europe where the mayhem began.

Before I go ahead, I simply want to explain my scenario and what it is that I’m writing this post for. (I’m hoping I can make it a series of 14 posts)

I was a Master’s student in France and was working from Paris (well, just outside Paris) when the Covid-19 was first announced in the far-east. I was an intern in a startup that worked in Station F – Europe’s largest collection of incubators and all was well.

It wasn’t until the end of February that things started to get out of control when the virus successfully made it to Italy. Once it entered France and the other neighbouring countries, it spread ridiculously quickly, rendering people in a state of shock.

The unfortunate truth is that people did not react at all. They went about their daily lives as usual and this is something I wanted to talk about, but not in this post.

For this post, it is sufficient to know that by mid March, the conditions had deteriorated terribly and I asked my father to help me book a flight home. Little did I know, I would be travelling on the last commercial flight to travel to Delhi from France in the next two days.

The flight itself was well-managed and you wouldn’t know that things had changed in the world if you were aboard AI 142 from Aeroport Charles de Gaulle, Paris to Indira Gandhi Terminal, Delhi if you ignored the spraying of disinfectant.

It was after we landed that we knew. I’ve travelled from Delhi on multiple counts and I had never seen it so deserted. On deplaning, the passengers were thermally scanned one by one and health forms we had filed on board the flight were stamped. We were asked to wait for about 15 minutes and then taken to immigration desks.

At this point, it is important to know that this flight had special permission to operate. France was supposed to have closed their borders on 17th March at 12:00 GMT and India shut down flights from Europe on 18th March. AI 142 took off at 21h00 CET on 18th March from Paris and landed at 09h:10 IST on 19th March at Delhi.

Immigration officials were baffled and struggled to get permission from the government. We waited about an hour in line and then went through immigration. They took our passports and we were asked to wait as they called out batches of 14-16 to be led to baggage claim.

A quick note here, there was some mismanagement on the side of the officials but I found the reaction of some passengers to simply be exaggerated. Shouting insults, demanding loudly and frankly in a despicable manner to people who have come to work today simply because of you is not in good spirit.

Please, if you find yourself in a situation where your government has made special compromises to fly you home, recognise the effort and work that goes behind it. If you follow instructions, which happened to be quite clear, the process is done in a matter of hours.

Also, a shoutout to fellow Indians who helped the officials who were clearly overworked and afraid. Shouting about a problem helps no one, but calmly suggesting a recourse can expedite the process considerably. I don’t know the full names of these people, neither do I have means to reach them for permission to mention their names here, so I’ll settle for just thanking them.

After the baggage claim, every piece was scanned and in an orderly fashion rarely seen of Indians, we filed quietly into a queue once done. The Major accompanying us then led us to what I assumed used to be the cafeteria at the airport. That’s where doctors and two makeshift waiting rooms had been setup.

I’m not sure who was responsible for this center and it’s functioning, but I would give kudos to the guy. Our baggage was parked, we were asked to take a seat and then food packets were immediately distributed to us. At this point, most of us had had no water and were running on a simple breakfast. The packets were received with gratitude and we dug into them immediately.

The food packets contained a piece of fruit bread, a small packet of Lays, tetra packed fruit juice and a 500ml bottle of water.

Clear instructions were given to us to keep an ear open for our names being called out. If called out, you were to follow an officer with your luggage. He would help you find a spot to park it and lead you to a doctor.

This small shift in baggage was unnoticed by many, but it hugely helped streamline the movement of people. Once done, we would not have to go back to the earlier room for the luggage, we could simply leave from there. The waiting room meanwhile would have plenty of space for other passengers.

The doctors would do a preliminary check, they would ask you about your travel history, the flight you took, your personal details and look for any symptoms. If cleared, they stamp your hand twice.

The first stamp that takes up a good amount of space on my palm states the location of screening, and whether I’m supposed to be Self-Quarantined or simply Checked.

The second, specifies the date from when my quarantine begins. The default date is the date you land. You can, however take a connecting flight to any other city within that day and then be quarantined.

They also hand you a circular with instructions on the quarantine and helpline numbers.

This concludes the entire process. It took a little over 3 hours from start to finish and was well executed. Multiple delays existed because people refused to be scanned or loudly stated unhelpful opinions provoking officials. I agree that there were mistakes from the management as well. In a crisis there rarely are perfectly systematic flows.

The flight from Delhi to Mumbai was quite uneventful and with the exception of the dead silent airport, nothing else was untoward.

I think the hardest part of the self quarantine was staying within 1 metre distance of your loved ones. My dad picked me up, I couldn’t hug him, he couldn’t even help me push my luggage.

I had to sit on the seat furthest from him in the car and once I was home, I went straight to the room that had been cleared for me. Starting then, I was to have little to no contact with them for 14 days.

The room I’m staying in is equipped with everything, including a bathroom and toilet. I do not leave this room, my meals are provided to me on disposable plates and bowls.

They’re placed on a table at the door and my mother knocks on the door. She backs away and after a few seconds, I open the door, take the food and shut the door again.

Periodically, I take my temperature, have a bath and clean the surfaces I touch with disinfectant, but it leaves a lot of the day empty.

That’s where this series of posts comes in. These 14 days are important and I want to keep track of them for the benefit of others as well as my own. There we go, quarantine day one.

Signing off