Travelling in fear: an emergency trip amid the Coronavirus chaos

When you need to make an emergency trip, in the midst of a pandemic, how do you go about it? This writer found out.

I had to travel from Hyderabad, just before the lockdown, because of a family emergency in Guwahati, Assam. So I armed myself with hand sanitizer, a box of sanitising wipes, a mask and breakfast.

For the first time in my life, visiting my hometown of Guwahati made me nervous. I was nervous about getting my mother discharged from a hospital there, and I was nervous about flying her back to Hyderabad. For the first time I witnessed an almost empty airport in Hyderabad: the entire process of airport security and collecting a boarding pass was done in 10 minutes.

First, I looked for a gate of a cancelled flight to find a safe, uncrowded space to sit. Then, after wiping the chair and handles with my disinfectant wipes I also wiped down my carry on bags. After this, I sanitized my hands. When it was time to board, I chose to stand in the corridor instead of sitting or queueing up.

Observing hygiene

Though I was carrying the required N95 mask, I had not put it on, unlike most of my co-passengers. I also noticed people took the importance of wearing masks very seriously, but in their haste did not really take care to see or find a mask that even fits. There were masks of all shapes, sizes and make. Some masks barely covered the nose, some squished the nose and even cut into the skin of the person. In fact, only about 10% were seen wearing the recommended masks.

I also noticed people wearing surgical gloves, ski gloves, winter gloves and even the disposable plastic gloves that come with henna dye kits. They rubbed their faces, scratched their noses and even ate with the gloves on.

Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Assam

Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Assam

On our way back, I was more nervous. My mother is a senior citizen who was discharged from hospital in Guwahati just the previous day because I had insisted on bringing her with me to Hyderabad for treatment. Her immunity, owing to her age and condition, is low.

The only saving grace was that Assam had so far reported no COVID-19 cases, but I had still wiped the wheelchair down before she was made to sit. Once inside the airport, I repeated the entire sanitizing process. We then waited at another empty gate to self-isolate. Until I reached home, I did not feel at peace, not one bit. Having said that, after reaching home, I wiped each bag with wipes, kept our clothes out, and mopped the house floor with Dettol. I even washed our footwear with soap and Dettol and, by the time I was partially satisfied, I had gotten a bad backache.

It is now day 8 since I travelled and we are doing fine.


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