Shashank was put in a quarantine center in Bangalore once he got back to the city, where he stayed for two days. In a conversation with Gauri Lankesh News, Shashank shared his experience of being at the center. Shashank describes the whole experience as “horrible”.
The Journey to the Quarantine center
Once Shashank reached Bangalore, he chose to stay at the government quarantine center, which was free of cost. His other option was paying between 750 to 5000 rupees to stay at the hotels. When Shashank arrived in Bangalore, there was no option for home quarantine. He pointed out that many could not afford the cost of hotels and decided to stay at the government centers.
“The whole idea looks like that you can maintain physical distance only when you can afford hotels. So, one can only get safety if you can pay for it.”
BMTC buses were arranged to drop them to the quarantine centers. According to regulations, there were supposed to be only 20-21 people on the bus with each person occupying one seat but these buses had 30-31 people with no physical distancing measures in place. They were asked to pay 100 rupees to be taken from the railway station to the quarantine centers, many were not able to pay this price as well. “For some people the other passengers, officers, or some conductors paid. We were taken to Kanteerva stadium which is not even 2kms from the railway station.” Shashank said.
They were asked to sit down through the bus journey because the bus conductors were scared that the media would see that the bus was at more than full capacity. “The conductors and the drivers asked everyone to sit next to each other because they were scared that if the media sees people standing in a bus, they might question them. They were very fearful of the media.”
There were sent to the sports facility in Kanteerava stadium which was the makeshift quarantine center. At the center, no social distancing rules were followed and the only test that was done in the one and a half days was a temperature check. Many people took paracetamols to avoid having a temperature which also made these checks unhelpful.
“In one of the quarantine centers in Bangalore, all 40-45 people who stayed tested positive for coronavirus, even after that experience they didnt practice social distancing or tested us for COVID19″- Shashank said. At the center, they were asked to download the Aarogya Setu app and three other apps so they can be tracked.
In the rooms, 6 people were put in a 10×10 room in bunk beds. So if anyone person is corona positive, the other 5 are at a very high risk of catching the virus.
This meant that people were at higher risk than if they were quarantined at home. Shashank said, “The authorities said that they did not have a count of how many people would come and that this was only meant for people who cannot afford.” So it’s not just that those who cannot afford hotels were not tested but even put at higher risk of catching infection if any one of them happens to be COVID positive.
Amenities at the Center
The bathrooms were common for men, women, and children and were not even cleaned. One washroom for 60 people, all this putting everyone at higher risk.
There were no separate washrooms for women and this made the stay extremely uncomfortable for women. “Even as a man, I felt awful seeing women in this condition. Men’s urinal were just opposite for bathrooms.. So women would wait around and use bathroom when men are not around or wait till night to go. One could see that women are having a lot of trouble because of this. Even while taking food men take take up the spaces. That is the least…they could have separate bathroom arrangement for women or on separate floor for women and children.
At night, the water would run out and people were not able to use the washrooms. The biggest problem was that this put children, senior citizens, and women at risk especially because they were sharing the building with so many others.
Access to Food
Shashank boarded the train from Hyderabad but the train had started from Delhi so there were passengers who had been in train longer than 24 hours. There was no food given to them on the trains. When some food vendors came, the cost of food was around 150 rupees and more and many of the passengers could not afford it. Others were scared that if they bought food from outside, they might get infected. They decided that they would eat only once they got home. The train had reached Bangalore at 7.00 AM and they were not provided food till 2.00 PM. A lot of people had not eaten food for 2-3 days. Only when the people started getting angry about the no food arrangement at the center, then some parcels were provided to them.
There was no proper procedure for leaving the quarantine facility. After the 2nd day, they allowed the people with local addresses to leave, i.e who were Bangalore residents. The people who were managing the facility said those travelled who have from states that were hot spots( Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan) had to be quarantined for longer.
” But this doesnt make any sense, we all have travelled in the same train, shared the same quarantine center with hardly any physical distancing, so only letting locals and holding others is totally arbitrary,” Sashank said quizically.
There were no temperature checks or any COVID-19 tests done before we left the facility. “The least that they could have done was take a test, and check if we tested positive or negative and then released us. This puts more people at risk.” Shashank said.“This makes no sense because we stayed in the same quarantine facilities as those who were allowed to leave. If there are no social distancing measures at the facility itself then this whole exercise should be null and void.” Said Shashank.
“The whole idea looks like that you can maintain physical distance only when you can py to afford hotels. So, one can only get safety if you can pay for it.” Shashank added.
The government has now changed the rule that those who are asymptomatic can quarantine themselves at home.
(The interview was done a week ago).