Raphael Lee Cass
On 7 February I caught a plane from Brisbane airport to Hong Kong airport to meet my relative so that we could fly to Israel. I had planned two weeks in Israel, two weeks in London, one week in Hamburg, two weeks in Vietnam and one week in South Korea for a relative’s wedding.
Landing at Hong Kong the plane screen showed Wuhan as a few hundred km north of the Hong Kong airport. I was glad I was at the airport for only hours. On entry to security I was asked to remove my hat and my, and every passenger’s temperature were taken.
Precautions and social distancing
I wore a mask, washed my hands frequently and would hold a paper towel in my hand to open and close any toilet or bathroom door. The airport was not busy. We sat near the gate for our Israel flight where there were about 20 people, all sitting distanced from each other. The plane was not full so we got a row of seats each to sleep on. When we landed in Israel the plane parked away from the terminal and we walked on the tarmac to catch a bus to the terminal. We thought we would be checked on entry, but we went straight through immigration.
We picked up a hire car, drove to our accommodation to commence our Israeli tour. Four days later, the government announced that all arrivals from mainland China needed 14-day’s isolation. We did our trips. The only checks we encountered were terrorist/security checks.
Airlines started losing customers as COVID-19 escalated. I cancelled my trips to Vietnam and South Korea. My relative’s return flight to Oz was cancelled. The airline wanted him to fly three days later so he flew on another carrier to Frankfurt, Hong Kong, then Melbourne. He had to leave 4am the day I flew to Heathrow.
In London there were no checks for COVID-19. I caught two trains to my daughter’s house. Over the next three weeks I had about six bus trips, a few train trips and went shopping numerous times. We were laughing at Australians buying toilet paper – but now local supermarkets were out of stock.
People were dying and borders closing
The world was starting to catch onto the sickness that was running rampant. Israel shut its borders. People were dying in Italy and Spain. I cancelled plans for Europe, booking London to Perth direct to avoid any Asian or Middle Eastern airports. This flight was expensive and I had already incurred penalties for cancelling two flights. I wanted to go home.
I farewelled my family, caught a taxi to Heathrow, walked amongst hundreds of people, had no COVID-19 checks, got on a Dreamliner with about 200 people, got myself three seats and slept for four hours. I landed at Perth airport on March 18 expecting the army to march me for a COVID-19 check as ScoMo had just brought in the 14-day isolation. No checks. I was intending to visit relatives and had paid for eight nights at beautiful Scarborough beach. I rang the COVID-19 hotline for advice on what to do about isolation. It seemed crazy to stay at an apartment. I would rather be isolated at home. I cancelled the apartment.
Back to Byron and isolation
I rang my travel agent and he booked me Coolangatta via Sydney. I waited at Perth Airport for 12 hours, making calls and rearranging my life. At 11pm I got on a packed flight with 300 people to Sydney where I walked around with 500 other happy travellers. I got on another plane with 200 people, landed, walked around with 300 people and got on a bus with five relaxed people to Byron. No checks.
I stayed isolated, cleaned my house, started projects. People are amazing: I have been delivered chicken soup, fresh veggies and fruit, supermarket supplies, pharmacy goods and just now, cheesecake and chocolate brownies.
Last Saturday, my twelfth day, my feet were cold and I felt tired. I had light asthma but attributed that to the damp situation of my house being shut up while I was away. I fell asleep for two hours after lunch. I felt ‘funny.’
I rang the COVID-19 hotline who transferred my call to a registered nurse who asked me many questions. As I was a returned traveller and had light asthma I qualified for a COVID-19 test. On Sunday I rang Byron Hospital and one hour later was taken into a specially prepared room by a garbed doctor who took swabs and checked my lungs.
I was told, ‘Your lungs sound fine. Stay isolated and when I get the results in three to five days I’ll call you.’
On Tuesday she rang. ‘Your test is positive.’
I reeled. Me? Me with C19? How could that be? Where did I get it from?
In my shock and upset I remembered. I had been in contact with about 3,000 people from London to Byron.
So is isolation stupid? No! You don’t know where people have been and who they have been in contact with.
I was asymptomatic for 12 days. And I was home for that time while I was getting ill.
I have a mild case of COVID-19 and will recover naturally in time.