Before March, most people never bothered to quarantine themselves for any contagious infection. I remember catching head lice, mumps, chickenpox, measles and every other passing disease from other kids in school. As a parent, I have seen other parents send their kids to school when they have a cold, fever or worse.
Ditto for the adults. In a pre-COVID world, we would have rather coughed our lungs out in office than called in sick.
Thanks to the global pandemic, there is some awareness about the importance of staying away from those who are sick. So, if you are COVID positive and don’t need to be hospitalised, you need to quarantine yourself at home away from the rest of the family. Even if you are suffering from mild symptoms, it’s better to isolate yourself in a separate room. However, given the lack of space in most Mumbai homes, it might not even be possible to have a separate mattress, let alone a room to oneself. This increases the risk of spreading the disease, especially to those family members who are old or immunocompromised.
To prevent the spread and reduce the risk of infection for those in contact with the patient, there is an option of resting and recuperating at government-designated COVID care centres. These are large spaces like exhibition grounds, schools and other venues, which have been converted by the local municipal bodies to treat patients with mild symptoms.
…in the first week of July, Sailesh developed a fever and cough. Within four days he lost his sense of smell and taste. That’s when Sailesh’s doctor prescribed a COVID-19 test.
To know more about what it is like to be quarantined at such a place, I spoke to Sailesh Kumar from Vashi, Navi Mumbai. 48-year old Sailesh was admitted at the CIDCO Exhibition Centre in Vashi, which is now a COVID care facility with more than 1000 beds. This centre is set up by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC).
Like most of his neighbours, Sailesh stepped out only for buying essentials and worked from home. He used to sanitise regularly and wear a mask outdoors. Despite these precautions, in the first week of July, Sailesh developed a fever and cough. Within four days he lost his sense of smell and taste. That’s when Sailesh’s doctor prescribed a COVID-19 test.
After learning he was suffering from COVID-19, Sailesh spoke to a friend who recommended quarantining at the facility to avoid exposing his parents and sister any further.
I asked Sailesh to walk me through his experience from the time he was admitted at the CIDCO Exhibition Centre on July 12 till he was discharged on July 20.
One of my friends is well connected and I reached out to him when I got my test report. My friend spoke to Dr. Menaka Patil from the centre to arrange for my stay. She called me immediately and said that I could go there the very next day. An NMMT bus picked me up from a lane near my residence and the bus driver handed me a letter needed for admission.
Within an hour of arriving, I completed the registration formalities. The only documents they needed were my Aadhar card and the letter. They issued an identity card and assigned a bed. The same day, Dr. Menaka checked my temperature and oxygen level and inquired about any other symptoms. She prescribed some medicines, which included hydroxychloroquine and a multivitamin.
A couple of days after I was admitted, my temperature dropped to 99°F, and to my surprise, I regained my sense of smell and taste within 2-3 days. From what I hear, it usually takes about 15 days to recover. While I was there, I also had throat pain and an upset stomach. By the 17th, I recovered from the cough and could rest easy.
The facility is clean and well-maintained. It is divided into different wards, starting from A to R. My ward had approximately 40 beds placed 4-6 feet apart. Beside my bed were a shelf and a plug point for charging mobiles. They also had oxygen cylinders for those who required it.
There were about 30 clean washrooms. Nobody had to queue up because there were enough toilets for all of us. Running hot water was available all day.
No, nothing is allowed from outside without permission from doctors. They provided all the food, which was neatly packed in divided trays covered with a lid. We were served medu vada, poha, upma or sheera for breakfast. I opted for vegetarian lunch and dinner.
Every patient was advised to wear a mask at all times. I wore masks provided by the centre, and also my own mask sometimes, which I washed every day. We were instructed to maintain hygiene and keep a safe distance.
We had a yoga session every morning with a trainer who not only demonstrated yoga poses but also motivated us to stay positive. Apart from the yoga session, most of the patients slept or rested during the day as they were exhausted.
No. I was only told to quarantine myself for seven days after getting discharged. There was no testing at the centre. They told me that I could get tested again if I wished to but it was not mandatory. I checked the Aarogya Setu app, which also indicated that I am safe and no longer COVID-19 positive.
Nothing! I did not have to spend anything apart from the ₹2,500 for my COVID-19 test, which I paid at a private lab. The accommodation, food, medicines, doctor’s visits were all free at the centre.
During our conversation, I got the impression that this facility is meant only for patients who need a lot of rest and basic treatment to recover from their symptoms. While Sailesh tapped his friends in high places to get admitted, he did mention that it might not be needed based on his conversations with other patients. The Aarogya Setu app, he referred to, is being used to track the spread of COVID-19. I was surprised to find out that his COVID positive status was reversed without any further testing.
In addition to the treatment at the centre, Shailesh mentioned that he bought a pulse oximeter and kept monitoring the oxygen level throughout. He revealed that he was anxious about his oxygen level because of what he had heard. Fear played a huge part in his obsessive oxygen monitoring. He also followed some home remedies like gargling with salt and turmeric water and drank hot water every hour of the day. He freely admits that he doesn’t know whether this contributed to his recovery or not.
While Sailesh was recovering, the rest of his family also tested positive and his sister was admitted at the same centre, while his parents were hospitalised.
All in all, he and his sister had a positive experience at the centre even though their symptoms were slightly different.
What to Expect, At a Glance
Aadhar card, letter, COVID-19 report
NMMT bus pick up and drop
Twice a day rounds
All provided including multi vitamin
Neatly packed veg/non veg options
Beds, plug point & shelf
Clean + No queue anywhere
Masks, sanitisers, gloves
Yoga & positive talk
Disclaimer: This story is meant for information only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. Please seek the advice of your doctor and healthcare professional before going to any health facility or COVID-19 care centre.