The Covid pandemic has left people all around the globe stranded away from their homes, their families, workplaces with people losing their jobs and their livelihoods. A few lucky have been able to make it back, but that too has come at a considerable cost, both financially, mentally and in time dollars.

People who have returned home somehow, have had to go through mandatory quarantine or self-isolation for at least two weeks so that if they had contacted the virus, it subsides or gets detected within that time and community transmission can be avoided.

The Indian Weekender spoke to a Kiwi-Indian woman Rachna Vijan, who was stuck in India for more than three months and returned home to New Zealand at the first possible and available flight earlier in June.

Rachna Vijan travelled to Jodhpur, Rajasthan in India in February this year to see her ailing father that made extend her stay in the country for a longer period.

Passengers on Vande Bharat Mission led first direct Air India flight from New Delhi to Auckland

She had to travel between the hospital, home and pharmacies during this time looking after her father when Covid-19 pandemic hit India, and the whole country transitioned into lockdown.

Sadly, Rachna's father succumbed to his illness in May leaving her with fewer reasons to stay there, and in a situation to travel back to her family; her husband and children living in Auckland, New Zealand.

She took the first available opportunity to travel back to New Zealand on Indian government led Vande Bharat Mission's Air India direct flight on June 5 to Auckland.

"We took reasonable precautions when in flight from New Delhi to Auckland. We were given a plastic face cover, wore masks and since I was travelling alone, I did not speak to anyone in the flight or at the airport," Rachna said.

Passengers travelling from overseas at Auckland Airport (Picture: RNZ)

She adds that upon reaching the Auckland Airport, which was deserted, she was duly checked by the airport security and then taken on a bus to Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland CBD.

"I didn't know where I will be taken. I had my protected gears on and boarded the bus to the hotel where I was given some forms to fill, then escorted to my room.”

Rachna adds that all this while, she did fear of getting in contact with the virus, as she had spent most of her time travelling between hospital, and pharmacies back in India.

"Indeed, there was a substantial chance of getting infected, not just in India, but also while travelling to India to New Zealand. Though I had my protective gears, everyone was confined to limited space sitting relatively in close proximity with co-passengers, and one had to use the restroom facilities in the almost 17-hour flight," she added.

A view of SkyCity Tower from Racha Vijan's hotel room during her managed isolation time in June 2020

Once in the hotel, Rachna was relieved to have finally found a place to rest, but this was still far from over. She was still away from the comfort of her house, her husband and children and she had to go through this ordeal, in self-isolation for 14-days.

"The first few days were difficult, alone in the hotel room, limited to no contact with anyone outside my room, and food would be dropped at my doorstep in takeaway boxes and door knocked once for intimation.

"I was given two laundry coupons to get my used clothes and linens washed. Housekeeping would drop fresh linens and sheets when asked, and I had to make my own bed at the hotel, so pretty much a good service was lined up for me, and I assume the same would be for other travellers in managed isolation facilities.”

Passengers on Vande Bharat Mission led first direct Air India flight from New Delhi at Auckland Airport on Friday, June 5

Rachna adds that since her balcony faced the street, her family would sometimes come over to the street just to have a glimpse of her. After a few days, her family was allowed to drop homemade food in a takeaway container which was checked by the hotel staff before dropping at her doorstep.

"Once I had settled in the hotel, mentally, I started working remotely, managing my café business from the room. I would stroll out on my floor and lobby during the evenings. The hotel had also created a yoga studio in one of the halls, and I would go there to relax and get some fresh air, and exercise,".

She adds that a nurse would come every alternate day to take her temperature from outside, ask her questions about getting any symptoms, such as cough, fever, cold, losing sense of taste or smell etc.

Passengers on Vande Bharat Mission led first direct Air India flight from New Delhi to Auckland

"As I was moving closer to the end of quarantine, I was, of course, excited and getting a sense of relief of finally joining my family and to go back home.

“On Day 12 of my managed isolation, I was asked if I would like to take a test for Covid-19, which was voluntary then by the Ministry of Health.

"I got myself swabbed, and then the next day, the two cases from the UK who were reported having Covid-19 came out which made mandatory all self-isolated individuals to get tested with a negative result to leave the isolation facility."

She further added that since she was tested negative and given results by Day 15, the day she was supposed to check out from the hotel- there was a lot of confusion and issues in the hotel as tests were done for all those other passengers in self-isolation just a day before and their results had not yet arrived.

"I finally had the green signal and then reached home to be with my family, after almost four months since I left home for India," Rachna says.

Vande Bharat Mission led first direct Air India flight from New Delhi at Auckland Airport runway 5 June

Rachna was visited by a few close friends and family members, but she says some people had apprehension to see me in person, given I had just come out of quarantine and that is totally understandable.

Overall, Rachna says, her experience was much better and somehow comfortable as compared to what people are going through around the world.

"Yes, even in quarantine, there were times when you actually feel blue in quarantine, have a fear of contracting the virus and when it pops up but overall I understood that one has to endure through all these, as we are not living in normal times now and the key is to go with the flow, take precautions and adjust to the situation.

Rachna further adds that once the cases started coming up, and the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that it would check all the people who left the managed isolation facilities, she was expecting a call from MoH if she was needed to undergo another testing.

"I called MoH helpline and asked them if I need to be tested again, as mentioned in the news, but they said I would be tested again only if I show any Covid symptom, else no test is required," Rachna added.