Quarantine of Travellers during the Initial Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic- Experience from a Rural Setting in Kerala, India
S-1 Staff Quarters, Government TD Medical College Campus, Vandanam, Alappuzha-688005, Kerala, India.
Introduction: Quarantine of travellers was one of the major public health strategies enforced by the state to curb the transmission of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the initial phases. Proper quarantine requires commitment from the person, support, and monitoring from the public health system.
Aim: To understand the process, practices, perceptions, and difficulties of quarantined persons during the initial phase of the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) in a panchayat in Alappuzha, Kerala, India.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted from May to September 2020 using a semi-structured questionnaire through telephonic interview among quarantined individuals in a panchayat in Alappuzha, Kerala. Quarantine practices, the process of quarantine, perceptions, and difficulties faced were explored to understand their viewpoint. The perceptions of the healthcare providers were also enquired qualitatively. The data collected was entered in Microsoft Excel and statistical analysis was done using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 27 (SPSS Inc, Chicago, USA).
Results: Out of the 182 quarantined individuals, 152 were in home quarantine of which 89 (58.6%) observed strict room quarantine and 132 (72.5%) had a quarantine period of more than 14 days which was the guideline then. Majority were contacted by the health staff during the period; however, 28% were not satisfied with the information that was conveyed to them. Majority adhered to infection control guidelines during quarantine. Almost half (46.7%) of them reported emotional problems during quarantine of which the major issues were loneliness and lack of social contact. Almost one-third of them had experienced stigma and rejection from people in the neighbourhood.
Conclusion: Quarantine to be used effectively as a public health measure requires that the concerns and problems should also be taken care of. Adequate information regarding the need and process of quarantine should be provided and there should be a system to cater to the emotional concerns of the persons. Awareness regarding the purpose and role of quarantine among the general public will enable quarantine to be used as a powerful tool for disease control in the future.