Coronavirus: First batch of Wuhan evacuees released from Delhi quarantine facility
New Delhi, Feb 17: Sneha Chatki and Chetna Doodi, both second year MBBS students at China's Hebei Medical University, had not interacted much during their time in college but the last two weeks have made them inseparable.
The two women were among the 406 individuals who were evacuated from China amidst the coronavirus scare and were being quarantined at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) facility at Chhawla in Delhi since February 1.
After being tested negative for the virus, the first batch of occupants of the camp were discharged on Monday. The five-storey quarantine centre, however, was far from the conventional image of a health camp.
Bustling with cheerful youngsters, it was not a place they were locked in for two weeks, but a space where they forged new friendships.
एक गुलाब सेहत के नाम !— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) February 17, 2020
चीन के #Wuhan से आए 406 यात्रियों का #Quarantine चक्र पूरा होने के बाद उनकी घर वापसी शुरू हो गई है। यात्रियों के पहले जत्थे को विदा करने के लिए आज मैं @ITBP_official के छावला कैंप पहुंचा और गुलाब का फूल देकर यात्रियों को रवाना किया।#COVID19 @MoHFW_INDIA pic.twitter.com/NyWPCu45qn
While most of the inmates were relieved that they were safe, they were also sad that their time together had come to an end.
"When we were evacuated from China, we were very sceptical about how we would be kept in India, but the last two weeks have been a lot of fun. Now that we know we are safe, I wish we could spend some more time together," said Chatki (20), who will be flying out to Mumbai on Wednesday.
On a usual day, following the daily medical examination to check body temperature, pulse and blood pressure in the morning, the occupants were free for the rest of the day.
While some watched movies together, others played tennis, chess and carom. Video calls with family members was another daily activity for most, but 20-year-old Nowsheen Nabi from Kashmir's Budgam district is yet to see her parents due to the internet shutdown in the valley, but that did not stop her from having fun here.
"This was awesome. We were here with people from different communities, and I made some new friends," said Nabi, a third year MBBS student at China's Hebei university.
Nabi was among 34 Kashmiris at the quarantine camp. She will be flying back home on Wednesday. Looking forward to meeting her family is also 30-year-old Arti Joshi, who had moved to Wuhan in December last year to pursue a post doctorate degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Wuhan University.
"I hadn't yet settled down properly there and everything seemed to have shut down. We were in quarantine situation in Wuhan since January 22. The Indian embassy was very helpful, but honestly, I am just relieved that I can now just go home," Joshi, a resident of Uttarakhand, said.
The 406 individuals were brought to Delhi in two batches on February 1 and 2. While the first batch had 104 people, the second had 302 individuals, including seven Maldives nationals and two Indian diplomats from the Indian embassy in Beijing, a senior medical professional at the facility said.
The lot also had 11 children. "Each individual was tested twice using nasopharyngeal swabs during the course of two weeks -- one immediately after reaching Delhi, and the other on February 13-14," the official added.
The scare, however, continues for Laya Omanakuttan and Abnhiran SureshKumar, students at the China Three Gorges University. Their next stop is Kerala which recorded three positive cases of the virus.
"The staff here were very friendly, so we did not have any problem. We will have to remain under home quarantine, once we reach home, so we are still a little scared," Sureshkumar said.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also visited the ITBP facility in Chhawla and interacted with the evacuees.
He told them about the steps taken by the government to combat the virus and the precautions to be taken in this context. The minister also took a quick review of the measures taken over the last fortnight by the doctors supervising the campus.