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World

The Conditions Inside One Quarantine Facility In Delhi As India Declares Lockdown

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

To India now, where that country's prime minister announced the largest coronavirus lockdown in the world. As of midnight tonight, no one in India is allowed to leave their home for 21 days. Authorities have shut down airports and put incoming travelers into quarantine. And NPR's Lauren Frayer spoke to one couple who was separated on arrival at New Delhi's airport.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: After honeymooning in the U.S., Behzad Fatmi (ph) and his wife Aaliyah (ph) returned home last weekend. They were among the last people allowed in as India went into lockdown. Behzad said it took them 24 hours to get through airport security.

BEHZAD FATMI: There was no social distancing. People were crowding at one place.

FRAYER: It was chaos, he says. They tried to hang back from the crowds, but people cut them in line. They admitted to having sore throats, but officials did not test them for coronavirus. They decided to release Behzad but put his wife in quarantine. He tried to argue.

FATMI: I said that we have been together. We have traveled to New York and Los Angeles. If she has something, God forbid, then I also have it, so please also take me to the quarantine facility. But they said no, we will not do that.

FRAYER: They took Aaliyah away by herself to a quarantine camp in a university. This was Saturday. Her husband has been calling her there several times a day since then.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FATMI: So how are you, honey?

AALIYAH: I don't know what to do..

FRAYER: Aaliyah is in a coed dormitory with more than 30 beds. There are only three toilets. The bathrooms, she says, are covered with excrement and soiled sanitary products.

AALIYAH: We've run out of hand sanitizer, and there are only buckets here. We have to share it with others. So all of us are very distressed, tired, sick of this situation.

FRAYER: Others in quarantine have posted videos on social media of filthy rooms with little space between beds. India has around 500 COVID-19 cases in a population of 1.3 billion. The government says most of those are people who traveled abroad or had contact with someone who did. So it's trying to mitigate community transmission, especially to slums, where hundreds of millions of Indians live without proper sanitation. An outbreak there could be catastrophic. The World Health Organization says this battle depends on what densely populated countries like India do next.

Lauren Frayer, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.