When I left to work on a project in Indonesia, little did I know that I would be stranded there.
I was due to return home early this month but within the first week of my arrival at Sumba, my flight back to Kuala Lumpur was cancelled following the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) on March 18.
After multiple flight cancellations and reschedules owing to the uncertainty, plus with the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia, I contacted the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta for help.
They knew of my presence in the country as I had registered with them upon my arrival.
The helpful embassy staff gave me a list of confirmed flights and the name of their appointed agent so that I could purchase new flight tickets. Within three hours my flights were booked and I was out of Sumba with an 11-hour layover in Bali before reaching Jakarta.
After an overnight stay in Jakarta, I was put on a rescue flight the following morning.
Relief washed over me the moment we landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on April 16. Right at the disembarkation gate, Immigration officers segregated us into two groups – Malaysians and foreigners.
We filled up documents and were interviewed by health officials before proceeding to Immigration for clearance.
Once completed, we were escorted in smaller groups to pick up our luggage that had been set aside.
In groups of 14, we were then escorted into buses where our bags were disinfected by a team wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The entire journey and events that unfolded before me were similar to the movie Contagion where faces were unrecognisable, airports were empty and personnel were in full PPE.
During the bus ride to a hotel in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, we were escorted by police outriders, which made me feel important.
At the hotel, passports and MyKad were photocopied, phone numbers taken down, allergies and other details were ascertained before room numbers and keys were assigned.
When I walked into my room, I was delighted to find that it was clean, neat and spacious.
I was prepared for the worst as I had read some posts on social media earlier on room and hotel conditions.
My room had a carton of drinking water, coffee, tea, toiletries and other essentials I would need for 14 days.
A document stipulated the house rules; meal times, rubbish collection days and that fresh linen and towels were available upon request. An additional vanity pouch containing laundry detergent, toothbrush and shampoo was also provided.
Any questions or concerns I had could be directed to the reception desk and if they were unable to answer, I was referred to the health team stationed there.
I was informed that a family member could drop off non-cooked food items for me at reception.
I was able to purchase some instant noodles and got it delivered to the hotel and after inspection by the team on duty, it was sent to my room.
My daily meal service was a little erratic because there were 393 people in quarantine and only a handful of staff on duty.
For breakfast, I was served Asian or continental breakfast like French toast, croissant, fruit and fruit juice, while lunch and dinner was usually rice with chicken.
I could order room service.
Health officials took swabs from everyone. They were professional and explained to me clearly what they were about to do.
By my sixth day in seclusion, I had developed a routine – wake up at 8am, do my laundry and catch up on news while waiting for breakfast.
I made it a point to document my journey in quarantine and looked out for potential projects online for work during the day.
Towards the evening, I would catch up with friends and family via video calls.
Frequent announcements were made reminding us not to leave the room as some did walk out and were warned that stern action could be taken against them for violating Section 24 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
I am treating this experience as a paid holiday, a staycation of sorts.
I wish to commend our National Disaster Management Agency, Health Ministry, Welfare Department, police, army and Rela as well as the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia on the seamless operation.
Like clockwork, they have ensured that we got all of our documentation sorted and a decent and comfortable place to stay.
I am still in awe of the level of organisation and efficiency every one of our government agencies has shown in this time of crisis.
I am also grateful to the hotel staff for doing their best.
They even extended wishes and played songs for those who were celebrating their birthday in quarantine, to cheer them up.
The one thing I have learnt from this confinement is that I am not alone.
I have been receiving numerous calls from family and friends offerings words of comfort, love and laughter.
When my confinement ends and if my test results are negative, I will be able to return to my family in Port Klang.
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