Published: 29th March 2020
This researcher from Trivandrum chose to stay in Wuhan and work through the worst of COVID-19 for this reason
Anila P Ajayan, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Hydrobiology decided to stay back in Wuhan and tells that it was her best decision
The Coronavirus outbreak that originated in China's Wuhan has claimed 24,113 lives across the globe till date. And Anila P Ajayan, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB) was in the eye of the storm — in Wuhan. When there were mass evacuations of students in China before the flights were completely suspended, Anila chose to stay back and continue her research in freshwater algal ecology. She felt that continuing her research was predominant to her than any virus and has never had a change of mind till date.
Anila at her research lab
Anila was warned by a fellow researcher in Virology, Zhang Lu, about the spread of the novel Coronavirus in Wuhan early in January. "She told me that some of her colleagues were interested in conducting research on the same. She also gave me a mask and told me to wear it whenever I ventured outside the institute," she recollects and adds, "There were discussions on a WeChat (a popular messenger in China) group of Indian postdoctoral fellows of which even I am a member." Understandably, she was also afraid of getting infected. "I had used public transport before the lockdown and had also eaten food from outside on the day it was declared. Since the virus might take 14 to 28 days to present any symptoms I was cautious right from that day — January 21," says the 32-year-old.
With her research group at Hubei Provincial Museum
Worsening her fears, Anila developed a common cold during. "I thought that it was a symptom. But our body temperature was monitored every day at IHB, and the officials here made sure to check on our health status regularly. This confirmed that it was a common cold," shares the Pathanamthitta native.
However, she continued to follow the necessary precautions and took good care of her personal hygiene. "I chose to isolate myself in my apartment, which is within the IHB campus and also stayed alone in my lab. Whatever discussions I needed to have with my guide, Dr Yonghong Bi happened through WeChat, and the monthly lengthier discussions happened on email and video conference. He encouraged us to stay positive during these tough times," she says.
With her guide Dr Yonghong Bi
While Anila was passionate about her research her family, back in India was nervous. "But, I explained the probability of getting infected during my travel. There were also chances of being infected at the quarantine camps. Even if I get back home after all this, my entire family has to be quarantined and understandably, there will be a fear among our neighbours if they come to know that a person has returned from Wuhan. Instead of spreading panic, I decided to isolate myself in my apartment at Wuhan," she states. Her parents were also convinced that she took the right decision.
Anila, who has been in Wuhan since September 2019, says that the virus outbreak has not deterred her research at any cost. "The time spent in the lab has been shortened, but the work is going on seamlessly," she concludes cheerfully.