I traveled on 10th Feb and returned from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah (Borneo Island) in Malaysia on 15th February 2020. Though I took all the precautions of washing hands at regular intervals, wearing masks at airport and keeping a sanitizer handy in the wake of the pandemic, I could not spare myself from over-thinking and over-analyzing, in the last few weeks. And why not? The pandemic virus has literally been spreading its wings, all over the world. The last 25 days have been full of apprehensions, anxiety and more. I have actually waited for three weeks before saying, “I traveled recently and yeah, I am good!”
But this doesn’t mean that you should go ahead with your international plans. Its better to postpone them for few weeks. Avoiding will help you to keep away from unnecessary ‘post-travel stress’. Most importantly, it will curb the chances of further spread.
Don’t panic but be aware!
If you are someone who keeps yourself abreast with world news, I bet you are aware that two words Novel Coronavirus and quarantine are not to be ignored. They have actually become worrisome. While our homes were fine, we left China to deal with its issue but now with the sudden rise in positive cases and deaths in Italy, Korea, Iran, its time we all act together. Presently, the virus has touched more than 90 countries. Have you even thought how many people have traveled during this time, the inter-mingling at different places and the transmission of virus through human to human contact that may have taken place already, unknowingly?
When I traveled, it was a different scenario
The truth is that even though there were not many cases outside China in the first week of February, I had my apprehensions before the trip. I had contemplated, checked on facts, consulted doctor and read as many articles that I could. And all of this had made me better informed.
I didn’t see much of a reason to cancel my trip because there were no positive cases in Kota Kinabalu, I remember a lot of my friends had questioned my decision when I had started my journey but I had reassured them that I would be vigilant. I did as I promised. The 5 days trip turned out to be absolutely fantastic. The awareness created around sanitizing hands, easy accessibility to hand-wash and the regular temperature checks gave me a constant assurance that it was all good in Kota Kinabalu. Honestly, I never had the time to worry about the virus, except a few mentions in casual conversations. But things changed when I returned. New reports started cropping up. In Malaysia, I had been in the company of writers from 11 countries. Of course, I was worried!
Was I screened at the Delhi Airport?
While the passengers returning from Malaysia did not have to go through the screening then, now its important for all international flyers. No, I wasn’t screened for temperature which dint seem right to me. I agree there were just 3 cases in India and 14 in Malaysia, no travel bans and no emergency at that time but we should have started with screening of every international flight, right from the beginning. Keeping a check on Chinese tourists wasn’t enough. Even now, aren’t we too late in some of these pro-active measures? But at least with the top leaders talking about it all around the country, we do look informed and in control of the situation.
A lot of my friends have been calling me to ask if they can travel. I have actually been telling them not to go overseas. So here is the truth. You may not feel its a big deal while you are traveling. It may seem normal in your city. You will be meeting people at the airport and in flights, just like you, who had pre-booked flights and hotels and they dint feel like canceling their plans. You might even enjoy the trip. But you will have to watch yourself after your return. You will be concerned for your family and friends. And you will have these after-thoughts- Whom did you meet? What did you touch? Who coughed next to you? Did you use the sanitizer often? So just avoid travel to keep away from the post-travel tensions and stress.
I have been through this and trust me, it becomes scary when you have seasonal fever and cough symptoms.
I know its important to think positive, keep away from negative thoughts, not worry too much but I think its equally important to be aware, to be an over-thinker, to have a moral responsibility and to warn others.
My concern was not,’What if I had picked infection?’ I was more worried about passing it further unknowingly, unintentionally. My family and friends did not bother for a moment but I always had a lingering thought of worry. What if? I even warned people that I had traveled abroad and you may maintain a distance from me. But as you know we Indians are so emotional people. We have one simple answer, ” We will face it together.”
What has actually changed since my trip?
A lot has changed! The positive cases have been multiplying like a bee-hive in the making. Panic had spread its wings like the virus. The travel industry has gone for a toss. Low budget airlines, small business are going through tough times. Major travel and tech events are getting cancelled, world over. Schools are getting shut. Global economy has taken a major hit. There is uncertainty over the real numbers. And most importantly, we are nowhere close to the cure.
Handshake has become a forgotten greeting habit and aadab & namaste are back in fashion. A cough and cold would invite a “get well soon”, but now they only get a smirk or suspicious look. A torrent of information is floating on the internet. The world leaders are trying their best to take stride of the situation in their territory but we haven’t heard much from the scientists. The fear has also led to assumptions and wrong information sharing.
Washing hands is very-very important, now and always. Even when there was no global crisis, I think our parents have always insisted on washing hands. We should not forget it even after the virus is gone. This has actually come as a lesson.
Let us get back to Namaste.
If you have been traveling, don’t panic but please keep a watch on yourself and don’t shy from sharing your travel history. Disclose absolute details at the airport. It is for your benefit and for the society.
PLEASE DON’T TRAVEL ABROAD for sometime! You can just wait for a month or two. Things will settle down. But if its necessary, travel responsibly and observe simple hygiene measures. I am still not sure about the travel within the country. Have to join a trip by the end of the week and I am skeptical myself.
Don’t spread rumors. Every other watsapp message is saying wear masks. No, a healthy person does not need to wear it at all the places. At some places, like airports, you may but only when you learn ways how to handle and dispose them.
Watch for the announcements from WHO – https://www.who.int/
Read the travel advisories and comply to them.
DON’T hoard on bottles of sanitizers! If you are standing at a shop, don’t buy all 10 bottles available. Have a heart for others who also need it. You wouldn’t need all ten at one go.
Avoid the unnecessary weekend outings. Keep away from the crowded places.
Last but not the least
I know a lot of people would be thinking that its okay to continue doing things the way they were. Why should life stop for Coronavirus. Those who are bothering are paranoids but trust me, we are not. I want you all to be right but until then lets not ignore it.
I also have a positive way of looking at it but more intelligently.
“In the times of impatience, unclean cum unhealthy habits, fast life and too much poking around, I think #Coronavirus is actually here to remind us of patience, hygiene and simple joys of sitting at home and keeping to ourselves.”