After 21 days of institutional quarantine, Maheswar Swain and Bangali Swain of Bharasa village of Khallikote block in Odisha’s Ganjam district, a couple who have returned from Surat, are spending their mandatory home quarantine period in a makeshift hut to check the possible spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Akhaya Pahana, another returnee from Surat to the Bharasa village, spends his home quarantine period on the verandah of his Phailin Cyclone-damaged house or under a nearby tree.
Nine members of Jhadia Gouda’s family from the same village are spending their days of home quarantine in their single room house.
Most traditional houses in Ganjam’s villages have one or two rooms arranged in a series — one room leads to another room. They have a single toilet. So, it is quite hard to adhere to social distancing in them during home quarantine. Several of the returned migrant workers have small thatched houses that have been damaged by past cyclones.
But despite the hardships inherent in their home quarantine, most migrant workers are only too happy to reunite with family members after a long period of anxiety.
Such experiences are playing out in most villages of Ganjam district, which has already welcomed around 70,000 migrant workers returning from outside Odisha due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who had returned to the district in the last week of April or the beginning of May have completed their institutional quarantine to spend a mandatory seven days in home quarantine. But the lack of adequate rooms and infrastructure at homes has created problems in the mandatory home quarantine period.
The Odisha government had in the past increased the institutional quarantine period to 21 days, followed by seven days of mandatory home quarantine for the returnees. This has now been reduced to seven days institutional quarantine followed by seven days home quarantine for persons not having any symptoms of the coronavirus.
Eager to return
According to the norms, affected persons can opt to spend their time under home quarantine in Temporary Medical Centers (TMCs) if they do not have facilities for home quarantine. But migrant workers, who have already faced much hardship at their workplace and a tiring journey back, are eager to return home after completing institutional quarantine at the TMCs.
Hina Behera of Balakrushnapur in Hinjli Block had to spend 21 days quarantine in a TMC after returning from Surat on May 2. According to him, although he has no money in hand and has suffered a lot due to the COVID-19 threat, returning back to his family for home quarantine has erased all his woes.