23 days in quarantine: Coast man’s coronavirus hell
A NOOSA Heads man fears he may be trapped in a vicious quarantine cycle as his virus ordeal continues into its sixth week.
Gilles Fischer, who tested positive for coronavirus, has been in quarantine in a Sydney hotel room since April 1 after flying to Australia from the United States.
Mr Fischer originally spent 30 days stranded on-board the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship in South America, and said since returning to Australia, his honesty mixed with inconsistencies and miscommunication from government and health departments had left him with severe anxiety.
"Every day, every single day it's me project managing the different departments and passing on the information," Mr Fischer said
"Every day there is a different nurse, and I'm telling the same story.
"You talk to someone over the phone, someone takes notes, they put it in the system it goes to a doctor you've never met, you've never talked to.
"There is a total lack of procedure."
Mr Fischer boarded the Celebrity Eclipse in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a 15-day cruise around South America due to disembark in Santiago, Chile on March 15.
The ship was refused allowance to dock in Chile and was left floating for three days before being granted permission to disembark in San Diego in the United States on March 30.
"We were told the ship was happy and healthy," Mr Fischer said.
He said passengers created a Facebook group to share updates while stranded, and after returning to Australia learnt several had tested positive to coronavirus.
Having developed a complete loss of taste and knowing he was on an infected ship, Mr Fischer, who originates from France but is an Australian citizen, asked to be tested.
"I asked to be tested and they didn't want to because I wasn't directly off a cruise ship, I flew into the country," he said.
"I didn't have a run of nose, just complete loss of taste, like completely, 100 per cent.
"I was on the phone and like please test me."
Mr Fischer said they finally tested him for Covid-19 with a positive result.
He said he was then told he would be moved from the quarantine hotel to a hotel specifically for confirmed cases.
"I was told 'you will be moved, we don't know where, we don't know when'," he said.
"I had all my things packed and I didn't know what time I'll be moved."
As project manager for a not-for-profit company, Mr Fischer was forced to work remotely from his hotel room with an ironing board as a desk.
"I've been working from my ironing table because I work from home and I wasn't provided with a table and chair initially," he said.
"I don't ask for much but I do have a job, I can keep working and all I wanted was a table and chair."
He was finally moved, however, wasn't provided with a mask while he was ushered through the corridor, infectious, with a hotel staff member wearing no personal protective equipment.
Once moved to the different hotel, Mr Fisher was under the belief he would need to wait 10 days plus three days with no symptoms from the test date before he could be released from quarantine.
He booked a flight to return to the Sunshine Coast for Monday, March 21.
It was then his honesty during his final discharge meeting last Thursday that saw his ordeal continue.
When asked if he came from the United States, Mr Fischer replied: "Yes, but before that I was on a cruise ship".
Mr Fisher said authorities' attitude changed and he was suddenly confused as being a passenger off the Ruby Princess and ordered to undergo further testing.
He was tested on the Friday and called by a doctor with concerns of his nose and an increased hart rate.
Mr Fischer said he had an underlying sinus problem and believed the anxiety from his ordeal had resulted in the heart palpations.
"I've become very anxious with all the experience I've had to date," he said.
"I can't see the light at the tunnel.
"My next test on Thursday, then I have to wait 72 hours and 24 hours for a discharge plan."
His anxiety peaked early Monday morning, he said.
"Monday I went into a panic loop hole and that when I had my big crisis," Mr Fisher said.
"I'd been 20-plus days in four walls with misinformation, working for an ironing table, feeling guilty.
"I'm not coping, I haven't been sleeping in 50 hours.
"I'm losing it, it's just too much. I'm worried for my health."
Mr Fischer is concerned being in a confined space with a weaker immune system will cause a relapse.
He said he had experienced several shaking and panic attacks and while he has been offered psychological support, no medical professional had been to check on him or his symptoms.
He believes it was his honesty that put him in the situation.
"I was a positive case but I wasn't supposed to be tested to go out, I demanded it," he said.
"I know people (from the cruise) have had symptoms but not come forward for testing because we did not come directly off a cruise ship.
"I'm here thinking I'm being honest and trying to make sense of it, I'm trying to keep my community safe.
"For everything I'm saying in my honesty, it's being held against me."
He said from the confusion with the Ruby Princess to the issues with his sinuses and heart, the communication was making the situation difficult.
"I don't know who's right who's wrong but what I can tell you, it's not consistent," he said.
"I ask what's the policy, what am I working with, don't change things on me.
"The message is being missed with too many channels of communication."
When contacted for comment, NSW Health said the federal Department of Health were responsible for restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Federal Department of Health said: "states and territories have responsibility of managing the quarantining of returning overseas travellers".
"All travellers arriving in Australia by air or sea must be isolated in mandatory quarantine accommodation for 14 days from their arrival."
"These requirements will be managed and enforced by state and territory governments with Australian Government support, including from the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force."
NSW Health said people confirmed as having coronavirus with a mild illness who are isolating can end isolation if at least 10 days have passed since the onset of their symptoms and all symptoms of their acute illness have been resolved for the previous 72 hours.
"Some people may have a pre-existing illness with chronic respiratory signs or symptoms, such as chronic cough. In this case, their doctor should assess whether the signs and symptoms of Covid-19 have resolved."