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Jakarta Post

Returning from Wuhan

Mon, April 20, 2020   /   05:15 pm
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    A portrait of Hayatul Hikmah at her home in Aceh. Hayatul was among the 243 Indonesian nationals evacuated from China’s Wuhan – the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak – in early February. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul’s mother reads news about the quarantine of Indonesian returnees in Natuna, Riau Islands. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    A photo of the moment I welcomed my sister, Hayatul, at Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport in Aceh. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul keeps army shirts as a memento of her quarantine period at a military base in Natuna. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul shows an official letter declaring that she is healthy and free from coronavirus. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul prays to express her gratitude for being able to arrive home safe and sound. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul joins an online class in her bedroom. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Hayatul continues to remind her family and neighbors to stay at home as the novel coronavirus pandemic grips Indonesia. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

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    Being at home allows Hayatul to spend more time with her mother. JP/Raudhatul Jumala

Raudhatul Jumala

When news of the novel coronavirus first emerged in December, I was terribly worried about my sister, who was studying in Wuhan – the epicenter of the outbreak in China.

My sister, Hayatul Hikmah, was undertaking a master’s degree in education at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan.

She said that life in Wuhan remained normal days before the lockdown. She and her friends still casually rode buses and didn’t wear masks. But life changed drastically on the first day of the lockdown.

“That day, I went shopping and witnessed panic-buying in the market near my boarding house,” Hayatul recalled.

She had a mild fever on the ninth day of isolation, leading her to suspect that she had contracted the virus. It turned out to be an ordinary fever.

Hayatul and her 11 friends, who all came from Aceh, kept in close contact with the Aceh administration about their condition and their repatriation plan.

The Indonesian government finally repatriated Hayatul and 242 other Indonesian nationals from Wuhan in early February. They all went through 14 days of quarantine at a military base in Natuna, Riau Islands, before returning to their respective hometowns.

After the quarantine period ended, Hayatul flew to Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport in Aceh with a health declaration form in her hand. My family and I welcomed her at the airport with tears of joy.

Hayatul said she had lots of memories from her quarantine days. She also kept a memento – army shirts given by soldiers who assisted them throughout the process.   

She has continued her studies at home through online classes. She often reminds our family and neighbors to stay at home to avoid the risk of contracting the virus.  

When Indonesia announced its first COVID-19 cases, Hayatul felt worried like when she was in Wuhan. But this time is different, she could share her concerns with the whole family at home.

The lockdown in Wuhan officially ended on April 8, but Hayatul can’t return to the city just yet, as the coronavirus crisis has gripped Indonesia and the rest of the world.

“I hope this pandemic ends soon,” she said. [yps]