Life in quarantine: ‘It’s [maintaining] your physical health while feeling the loss of your mental health’

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“[Life in quarantine is] policing your co-residents because your health depends on them as much as it depends on you… It is being ostracised by those you thought were friends and being ‘befriended’ by some who are not.

“It is trying to keep your physical health while feeling the loss of your mental health…”

The following is a Letter to the Editor about life in a Covid-19 quarantine facility, by a temporary resident who asked to remain anonymous:

Photo: A quarantine facility in Chennai, India.

The question was asked, “How is life in quarantine?”

I suppose that life in supervised quarantine is similar in many ways to that of self-quarantine. It is the same uncertainty, frustration, and maybe even fear that the rest of the nation has been experiencing for the past few weeks. It is living every day sometimes minute by minute.

But of course, life in forced quarantine has its peculiarities:

*Life in quarantine is morally correct*

It is first and foremost a national duty; it is for your safety and that of your countrymen. You accept it because it is the right thing to do. But then you subsequently regret it because it is more difficult to manage than self-quarantine, and it isn’t any safer.

It is policing your co-residents because your health depends on them as much as it depends on you. It is reminding 21 other mates to: wash their hands after their vitals, before going to the fridge or to our make-shift kitchen counter, to not pick their nose, to keep on their masks, to keep their distance when they speak to you.

It is prolonging the use of a single mask to the point that is sometimes riskier than wearing none at all. It is living in a group community for whom the initial benefits of quarantine are lost day by day.

Photo: A quarantine facility in the Far East.
(Copyright Deccan Herald)

*Life in quarantine is unpredictable*

Life in quarantine is seeing your favourite nurses leave without notice. It is sending a prescription for one medicine and having the health authorities send you something else. It is the everyday struggle of trying to find out what the day will bring.

Will you be swabbed again? Will you be sent to Couva?

*Life in quarantine is unbearable*

Life in quarantine becomes almost unbearable when you read that someone escaped another quarantine facility and police stop looking for him because he tested negative once; whereas you have tested negative twice or thrice and still do not know when you will be released. It is reading social media and seeing the many misrepresentations of our group.

It is seeing Devant Maharaj stirring up the population to deny accommodation to actual Covid-19 cases in local communities, although they will not be put at risk for contracting the virus. Life in quarantine is sometimes being disappointed by the lack of empathy of your fellow countrymen.

Photo: Doctors swab a patient as part of the test for Covid-19.

*Life in quarantine is incoherent*

Life in quarantine is having to find solace in prayer. It is loving the God you cannot see and hating the neighbour you can. It is bickering about the petty things, because what else is there to do?

It is being ostracised by those you thought were friends and being ‘befriended’ by some who are not. It is trying to keep your physical health while feeling the loss of your mental health.

It is being part of the forgotten; not positive for the virus so you can be treated—but seemingly ineligible to return home. It is seeing three and four test kits wasted on the same person to give the same result, and occupying a space that may be better spent on those who are actually unwell.

Life in quarantine is trying to make sense of nonsense.

*Life in quarantine can still be pleasant*

And yet life in quarantine has its pleasant moments. It is when warm water actually flows through the taps, when you get an opportunity to wash your clothes, when a delicious meal is delivered, when you make a new friend in the quarantined community, when the Red Cross takes the initiative to send you a care package and the messages that remind you ‘we are in this together’.

Photo: The lighter side of the novel coronavirus.

It is pleasant when the strong console the weak, when you can still see gratitude from co-residents in spite of the grumblings. It is seeing loved ones outside drawn even closer in spite of the physical distance.

Life in quarantine is knowing that this too shall pass.

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