KOCHI: As Wuhan, where COVID-19 broke out, opened its streets for the public on Wednesday after a prolonged lockdown, the lone Malayali girl who stayed back in the Chinese city is smiling. It’s not just the joyful faces she sees all around that make her happy, but also her decision not to travel to India. “I thought I shouldn’t be a virus carrier to India,” Anila P Ajayan, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB), Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, told The New Indian Express.
“We can feel the happiness of people on the streets of Wuhan though everyone is very cautious,” said the native of Elavumthitta, Pathanamthitta.
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“The only noises I used to hear in Wuhan for more than three months were that of ambulance siren and radio messages in Chinese language. Most people whom I had met, including my professor, looked gloomy. But now I can feel the change. They are happy and calm. Roads have become busier, people have started singing. Students are coming back to IHB to resume their research,” said Anila.
But restrictions are still in place for people who go out. Roads and other public places are still being cleaned using disinfectants. To use public transport, one needs to have a Green Health Code. And those who want to go for shopping need to undergo thermal screening. If one’s temperature is above 37.2 degree Celsius, then he/ she is not allowed to enter shops. Morning sessions in shops are reserved for the elderly.
COVID toughened Wuhan city’s resolve
Those who plan to come back to the offices or institutes should strictly follow norms like 14-day quarantine, temperature screening before entering and leaving the premises and social distancing. Meetings should not exceed two hours. Lengthy meetings should be conducted online. Everyone should wear a mask, even inside the offices. “I was worried about contracting coronavirus. I had used public transport and ate from outside. So I was worried to come to Kerala. I had read that one can also be an asymptomatic carrier. I knew travelling in a flight can be risky,” Anila said.
So she thought it was better to self-quarantine in her apartment in Wuhan so that her family and native people back home do not panic. She was also not sure when she would be able to return to Wuhan if she travelled to India. “I heard that flights were cancelled. The duration of my research is two years and I thought if I go back to India, I may not be able to come back to Wuhan at least till June. So I decided to stay at IHB,” she said. Anila spent 77 days in isolation.
“Those days weren’t easy at all. Students of IHB Masters, PhD and Post Docs stayed in the same building. I was living on the second floor and became alone after all other Chinese students in the floor left for their native places for spring holidays. All other foreigners were on the first floor,” she said. “Days used to be so silent and the screaming siren of ambulances disturbed me.
I couldn’t sleep for even two to three hours,” she said. Asked what lesson the world could learn from Wuhan, she said: “Wuhan’s story of togetherness should be appealing to the world. The people and authorities in the city fought COVID-19 together,” said Anila. “During the time of lockdown, medical teams visited every home in Wuhan to check people’s health status. They collected samples of those who showed COVID-19 symptoms and tested them. They later found there were many asymptomatic patients also. By that time, infection rate rose steeply, yet they didn’t give up,” she said. She believes COVID-19 toughened the resolve of Wuhan. And so did hers.