Visiting family and friends in New Zealand in March, after a three-year absence? Fantastic idea – well that’s what we thought when we booked a three week holiday last December. And we did have a great time – for ten days!
Covid-19 was on the horizon but everybody was still hugging and shaking hands although we did laugh about the elbow bumps and foot shakes.
On Saturday, March 14 it became obvious that Covid-19 was escalating. Several countries in Europe closed their borders and the Australian government was putting in stringent measures to help stop the spread of the virus.
After discussing what to do, Frank and I decided that heading back to Perth early was a no-brainer. We are both seniors and if we were stuck in NZ – what would happen about our medication? We had plenty of offers for accommodation, which was great, but what if we were stuck for months and what if Australia didn’t let us come back in?
We live and pay tax in Australia but because we are senior NZ citizens we can’t get permanent residence and are in Australia on a Special Category Visa – that was another worry.
So on March 15th, I spent more than two hours on the phone to Air New Zealand getting our flights changed – an hour and a half of that was listening to some of the most truly awful elevator music I have ever heard. Eventually success, at a cost of course but we were booked for Tuesday March 17. Cue a flurry of packing, messages and phone calls to friends and family. Also ordered groceries online from Coles and Woolworths. Coles would deliver on Thursday, March 19 and Woolies on Saturday, March 21. Yay!
No problems on the flight – it looked about three-quarters full. The airline played a pre-recorded message from the Australian government about – African Swine Fever – nothing about Covid-19.
Arriving in Perth, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and expected to have to queue for ages getting health checks.
However – we were met by two people in full Hazmat suits handing out leaflets from the WA government telling us that we would be in self-quarantine for the next 14 days. There were no temperature checks, which I found very strange, as many other countries, including New Zealand, had set up checks for incoming passengers at airports.
Baggage claim and passport control were empty and the e-gates were still open. We were handed another leaflet (again by two people in full Hazmat suits) as we left – this time from the Australian government about isolation guidelines and what to do if we were ill.
We went home in a car that we had pre-ordered – keeping to the social distancing guidelines and when I switched on my phone – Coles had cancelled my online order so that they could ‘focus on the most vulnerable people in society’. Apparently we did not qualify.
A friend had stocked our fridge with bread, milk and eggs and – bless her heart – wine and beer! Not to mention the lasagne and garlic bread for dinner.
March 18- Self-isolation Day 1:
We have no family in Perth but are lucky enough to have good friends who all offered to shop for us. We made an inventory of what was in the pantry and freezer – pantry was okay as living in places like Russia and Kazakhstan has taught us to have a reasonable amount of tinned goods but we had emptied the freezer prior to going on holiday.
We also did our laundry and cleaned out cupboards. I can see us having one of the cleanest houses in Perth before our 14 days are up. I found a local butcher online (Meat Lovers Paradise) who makes deliveries and ordered some basics – but they are now out of stock as ‘it has been a madhouse’ – they hope to restock in two or three days…
Saw an advert in Facebook from Mondo in Inglewood about delivering meat and poultry so placed an order. First delivery slot is Saturday – fingers crossed.
The grump-o-meter (otherwise known as my husband) didn’t register a flicker but I put that down to having beer in the house!
I also made a huge pot of soup after a friend delivered vegetables. We have put a (disinfected) Esky outside our front door so there is no contact.
Another friend brought us some Shepherd’s Pie – left over from the Perth Harriettes hash run the previous evening.
March 19 -Self-isolation Day 2:
Woke up to a message from Woolworths to say our online delivery had been cancelled but they did offer a lifeline in the shape of a priority form for those in need. We had to give our Seniors Card number as well as stating our case – we are both classified as elderly (i.e. over 60), are we at risk? Well I had SARS in 2003 and pneumonia recently so we will find out in 48 hours whether or not we have made it on to the priority list.
In the meantime I’m thinking about cleaning out our long-neglected study today and maybe should break out that jigsaw that has been gathering dust since last July after all I don’t want to switch on the television earlier than 5pm – we have to keep up some standards! Although that box set of Game of Thrones might be interesting …
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