30 minutes of woman with father dying due to quarantine

In the last moments she would have with her father, Natalia Southern only had 30 minutes to say goodbye to him.

As she entered her hospital room, she couldn’t touch her father or hold his hand. She couldn’t whisper in his ear how much she loved him – she couldn’t even come within 6 feet of him.

Her mother and brother were not allowed to be in the room with her while he was dying. She was alone.

Southern’s father Manuel Nunes, 88, did not have the coronavirus. As far as she knows, neither does she.

But Southern had traveled to his Perth, Western Australia hospital from Melbourne, where cases of COVID-19 has jumped in recent weeks in the middle of a disruption of the country’s quarantine procedures.

The compassionate release exemption granted to him by government officials for moving out of strict Melbourne lockdown and going to his father’s bedside as he died of vascular disease has not been extended only to this brief farewell.

When he died less than 10 hours later, she was alone, back at the Perth city center hotel where she and other arrivals in the city were forced to quarantine for two weeks.

“The biggest fear you have is that you will never make it on time and be there at the end,” she told BuzzFeed News through tears in a phone interview since. his hotel room. “Even if I got there for 30 minutes, I would have stayed with him until the end if I could.

Southern’s story illustrates the heartbreak facing those in Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, as they undergo a second lockdown aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. There was 403 new confirmed coronavirus infections and five deaths in Victoria Thursday, according to the head of state, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews. That number was only slightly lower than Wednesday’s record of 484 new cases.

Until recent weeks, Australia had seen relatively few cases of the coronavirus. All incoming passengers from overseas have been forced into quarantine in hotel rooms for 14 days as a precaution, and the federal government shutting down many businesses and ordering size limits at social gatherings in March as part of an aggressive social distancing campaign.

Over time, life slowly returned to a certain sense of normalcy. There had even been discussions about opening a “travel bubble” with New Zealand, where the virus has been effectively eradicated.

But then the second wave came.

Officials have investigated the reappearance of the virus in such high numbers in Victoria, with evidence suggesting most cases could be linked to the hotel’s quarantine program, with allegations of poorly trained security personnel and even sex between private security guards and returning travelers.

Mask-wearing is now mandatory in Melbourne, where residents undergo another six-week lockdown that is expected to take a billion dollar toll on the Australian economy.

People are only allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons and large gatherings are once again prohibited, with police issuing heavy fines on violators. In one case, 16 guests at a house party were fined a total of AU $ 26,000, or around US $ 18,000, when authorities discovered the rally after being alerted to a Exceptionally large KFC order placed after midnight.

Other states have closed their borders with Victoria for the first time in a century.

Southern, who first shared her story with Australian public broadcaster Wednesday, told BuzzFeed News that she understood why tough measures were needed. Although the lockdown has been difficult for her athletic children, an 11-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, she said her family was doing only the best they could.

But she is still shaken by how difficult it was for her to get permission to be with her dad, having to navigate a messy mess of muddled bureaucracy, mixed responses and, ultimately, a strict and sterile farewell that ultimately got her. been allowed.

“I have no problem with them saying you have to wear a mask, you have to stay indoors, you have to isolate yourself,” she said. “But the system says they will allow compassion. It means that you are trying to find a way to balance security with the needs of the individual in this extraordinary circumstance, and that is not what I see.

“I don’t know of any circumstance where if your immediate family is expected to die – isn’t that the most extreme circumstance? What else could there be?”

What hurts the most, Southern said, is that she can’t be there to comfort her grieving mother – or to receive comfort herself. Instead, she must deal with her grief alone in a strange, soulless hotel room.

“I don’t care about 14 days in the hotel. I really wouldn’t,” she said as she collapsed crying, “but I have no one, and I know that my mom is at home and all I can do is call her.

“Sometimes [when grieving], you just want to sit in silence, but if you were with them that silence with someone can be precious because that person is there and you can see their face and you can feel their pain – but I didn’t not even that. “

Now she faces the agonizing decision of trying to get her partner and their children to come to Perth for a funeral and go through quarantine themselves.

She doesn’t know what to do. Still, she’s grateful she did it to say goodbye to her father.

Manuel Nunes died more than half a century after arriving in Australia from his native Portugal in search of a better life. He worked as a carpenter, traveling the country and helping to build towns in some of Australia’s most remote areas. He got married and fathered a son, then a daughter, who was there, the best she could be, to say goodbye.

“I think he waited for me,” she said.

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