Quarantine perspective

5 April, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Quarantine perspective

Motin Mia (anonymous) is a migrant worker who lives in Milan, Italy working as a janitor. Few days ago, his office shut down due to COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. Moreover, since his visa expired a month before the outbreak, he was unable to avail any medical facilities according to the immigration law of Italy. Finding no alternative, Motin Mia had to return to Bangladesh and ultimately reached his home in Madaripur without displaying any symptoms of Coronavirus at Shahjalal Airport. He later developed mild symptoms of fever, sore throat and shortness of breath, got good care from his wife and two little daughters. His wife is a pre-school teacher in regular physical contact with her students.

There are many similar stories like Motin Mia’s. Being victims of immigration laws, they had to return home, reuniting with their loved ones. Getting medical care is a fundamental human right and no one can question it. But infecting loved ones and fellow countrymen with a disease could have been prevented if only you isolated yourself from the world! Ironically, people like Motin Mia are wandering publicly in the streets having no qualms about quarantine.

People should know more about quarantine properly. Tragedy can befall, if we bypass it. That’s why the government attaches so much importance to it. Here we will discuss these matters from historical and empirical points.

What is Quarantine?

The word ‘Quarantine’ had been derived from the Italian word ‘Quaranta’ which means ‘a period of forty days’, as was its usage during the 14th and 15th centuries when the infamous “Black Death” (Bubonic Plague) hit Europe. In the city-state of Venice, the Doge ordered citizens to stay at the home for 40 days so that none would die from the plague. The word “Quarantine” was incorporated into the English language in the early 1600s.  By then it had changed to mean sort of “separation” from the general mass for greater good. We also know about Isolation or Quarantine ideas during the period of the Umayyad Caliphate (740AD).

In general, ‘A Quarantine is a restriction on the movement of people and goods which are intended to prevent the spread of disease or pests. Strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.’ In other words, ‘Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.’

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains the practice of quarantine specifically as: the separation of a person or group of people, reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

There is also another important term which is passionately related to Quarantine that is nothing but 'Medical Isolation'. In the epidemic, perspective Isolation means ‘separating sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.’

According to the CDC, the practice of isolation entails:  the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health orders.

Quarantine may be used randomly with ‘Cordon Sanitaire’. Although the terms are related, cordon sanitaire refers to the restriction of movement of people into or out of a specific geographic area, such as a community, in order to prevent an infection from spreading. It is like ‘Medical isolation’

What are the conditions of Quarantine or how much time it takes? Historically, a quarantine of 40 days was imposed upon ‘ships’ when suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease. This practice of ‘forty days’ came from Venice in the 1300s in an effort to stave off the plague.

But there is no specific time to maintain Quarantine. When it came into English language it also changed its traditions, as well as its period policy. Largely it depends on the contagious power of the Virus and geographical perspective as well as the probability of the virus’ symptoms. Therefore, the period of COVID-19’s quarantine is 15 days. In these 15 days, if anyone is suspected to be infected by this virus he/she has to stay at a specific place. It can be an official place by the government or it can be home.

Rules to follow during Quarantine

Individuals (Quarantine’s referred people) should not meet doctors and other family members as well as neighbours without any urgent need. They should maintain social distance from everyone. They should only use such domestic materials that are exclusive for them. They should wash hands properly after doing every work with soap or whatever but the washing time must be at least 20 seconds. It is medically recognised that less than 20 seconds of washing hands can carry COVID-19. Under no circumstances, they should come near or in contact with domestic animals. Not only they but also everyone should wear masks. Contacting a doctor before every visit is essential for the doctor’s safety. At the time of sneezing and coughing, they should cover their face by handkerchief or tissue papers. (If they are infected partially or fully) or use face-mask.

What is waiting for us?

If we don’t follow the rules of quarantine, we are in for a huge catastrophe. Bangladesh is an overpopulated country and most people of this country have little or no knowledge of the virtue of isolation. Lots of immigrants and migrant workers have already arrived from COVID-19 affected countries like Italy, Spain, and South-East Asian countries. In light of it, I wish to mention my hometown Feni. More than 12 thousand people came from abroad, and nearly three thousand people are staying at official quarantine. The administration is forcing all to stay home in ‘home quarantine’. Although the government is trying its best, the needy cannot remain at home. If we are not aware we won’t be able to handle an outbreak here as we have limited equipment and facilities. Let alone Bangladesh, even developed countries are unable to handle huge number of COVID-19 patients. So beware and say, ‘United We Fall, Divided We Stand”.


Kawsar Uddin Mahmud, International Relations, Dhaka University