Confrontation. Covid-Quarantine. Ordeal.

Michael Roberts

Preamble: I flew to Sydney in Australia on Sri Lankan Airlines UL 606 leaving Katunayake at 17.00 o’clock on Wednesday 16th September. The airport was depressingly empty. Only about 35 passengers were on the flight –undoubtedly due to Australian restrictions. Two were Aussie women and the rest looked dinky-die Sri Lankan.

We were all seated in the rear compartment – quite apart and spread out. There was no TV entertainment…… and no free booze. Dinner was served almost immediately [at the Aussie time of 6.00 pm!!] and the lights were then switched off. Alas, I could not find sleep [unlike most everyone on board]. So …. I was unsuitably exhausted by the 07.00 am arrival moment in Sydney.

Arrival ‘Greetings’: There was nothing like the usual hustle and bustle at Sydney airport. No streaming passengers ….. no trolleys. But we were then faced with lines of health officials in gear meant for a moon-landing … all spaced yards apart. They were assessing the passengers with temperature ‘guns’ and questions. It turned out that they were also sorting the passengers — with the safer lot destined for the quarantine hotel facility run by the Police and the other lot for the quarantine facility run by the Health Department.

Alas, I Michael Roberts had a striking white bandage on my right big toe — exposed to the world in sandals. This was due to a problematic in-growing toenail that had chosen to smash head-on into a raised pavement on my way to the National Archives about a week before. This bugger of a toe had given me lots of grief ….pain to a moderate extent, but mainly trips to Asiri Hospital where I was treated by my Richmondite friend Sarath Gamini De Silva and given anti-biotics and Panadol with instructions to keep the toe out of water.

Thus exposed, a grey-haired Aussie doctor pinned me. I needed medical attention. This only dawned on me in stages. The next stage was being met, interviewed, swabbed (both nose and mouth) and twiddled aside for quite a while at another section of the airport. We had landed at 7.00 am. Eventually I was escorted to the luggage arrival section to collect my load of suitcases and we emerged from the airport at 10.00 – three hours after the UL had landed.

There was no hustle and bustle of traffic in the ARRIVAL front of the airport. Grim emptiness. One large bus passed…. empty. A minibus came about five minutes later. Just for Michael Roberts – with my nurse escort as police agent. The nurse escort and I sat suitably apart on the bus …. no cohabitation.

After a 20/25-minute ride we reached my quarantine abode: Atlas Apartments in Camperdown Sydney. My flat was/is on the ground floor. Yes, a flat not a hotel room!  Allah be praised. This means that, apart from an extra bed [for whom], I have a microwave cooker and a drawing room suite with an open but enclosed balcony area with a greenery bed and eight-yard walking area attached.

Not bad at all. Maybe the exacting arrival procedures turned out best for my needs. In fact, I write now after a fortified nurse [all are suited fortified or fortified suited] standing outside my door removed my bandage, applied antiseptic and bandaged my toe afresh on Day Two [after giving me time to shower].

Nurses deliver food in brown packages every morning and evening. The contents are considerable and cater for the capacities of a large Aussie male. I am already awash with extras – yoghurt, fruit-pack, sandwiches. So, I need to work out how I prevent my bulging stomach from bulging yet more.

Rigorous discipline is the answer. Regular rigorous exercise. UGH!

I should not be seated here at my computer typing. Get up and about, man!

PS: The charges for this two-week quarantine are a ‘mere’ 3000Aus $

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Filed under accountability, coronavirus, cultural transmission, landscape wondrous, life stories, martyrdom, security, self-reflexivity, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, taking the piss, the imaginary and the real, transport and communications, trauma, travelogue, unusual people, world events & processes

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