Quarantiny – Chapter 4 – Day 1

Quarantiny – Chapter 4 – Day 1

Chapter 4 – Day 1 – Friday 17 April 2020

“The best part about tough time,
it is not static, it moves on!”

It is already 17 April 2020. I am still on the same plane. It seems like a never ending journey.

I had a reasonable aeroplane breakfast with omelette, sausage, and mushroom. Looking at the clear and vast Australian sky through the small aeroplane window after almost two months. Crossing Western Australia. The clouds here are not as unhappy as I have left in Bangladesh. These clouds are still floating at their own pace. Playing with each other. Running behind one another. It seems, I have reached to a new land, a new life.

I still do not know what is waiting for me in Melbourne! Where do I have to stay for next 14 days as part of the mandatory quarantine. I had to fill in a form provided by the Australian Government to agree with all the quarantine conditions. I had to sign it even after not knowing any details of the accommodation and other arrangements. Am I a bit nervous? Not really but obviously a bit concern with the type of accommodation I get! Let us see where I end up.

Our plane has landed in Melbourne around 2:50pm local time. We were instructed to remain seated until the Australian Government official reconfirm all the messages needed for us to understand the procedure ahead. I turned my phone on and texted my family in Australia to inform that I have landed in Melbourne. Received response immediately. First from Nigar followed by Kishoree and Auditya (my two daughter’s).

Ten minutes later, a Daniel Cross representing the Australian Government welcomed all of us back home, reconfirmed all the instructions regarding what we will expect inside the airport and our way to the hotel. After his bold but friendly message, the crew allowed us to leave the aeroplane.

I was the first one to leave. What a different Melbourne airport! No passengers around, everywhere is concentrations of uniformed people from multi departments I believe. However, everyone from the gangway to the building welcomed me back home as if I have come back after winning a ‘war’ for Australia. At the gate of the terminal building a lovely lady wanted to test my temperature with a nice smile. I passed. I was directed to follow a colour coded direction marked for the Australian citizens. After walking one minute, I reached near a corridor, where the officers from the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Government were waiting to receive us.

A young officer introduced herself as Megan Smith and welcome me back home again and requested me to confirm my details. Her responsibilities were to verify paper documents, distribute new documents and finally mentioned the name of the hotel I will be staying for next 14 days – it was Novotel at the South Wharf, Melbourne CBD. Not bad, I thought!

She also collected the signed document for my agreement to comply with all the quarantine conditions. Among the forms was a detail one that I must hand over to the hotel, one instruction from the Department of Home Affairs, and few documents on my responsibilities during the quarantine period. Another document I had to sign showing that my quarantined period will finish on midnight 1 May 2020. They again checked my temperature. I passed. Instructed to walk up to the desk number 6.

These people were from the Department of Health, inquired about my general health condition. They were satisfied and directed me to the next lot where the Department of Immigration officers were inside their counter to check the legal travel documents. After few hours, someone (the immigration officer) requested me to remove my mask to match my face with the passport photo. I passed again. Clear to go.

It was now the time to collect the luggage. Since I was the first one, I had the best location to collect the luggage from belt number 5 within the marked areas to maintain social distancing.

While standing and waiting for the luggage to arrive, I started to fill in the forms that I must submit to the hotel. Excellent forms, the first one, full of question to help me to guide them to provide best possible services – about food, allergy, medication, health issues etc. I filled in the form, particularly ticked the box that my preference is halal food as I do not wish to end up with bacon and egg breakfast and pork belly for lunch!

The second form was quite interesting. It was about my family in Australian and their dependency on me as I will be out of actions for next 14 days. The Department would take actions to support my family if required. I was genuinely impressed with such a detail thinking process! I filled in all the forms as it was a long wait for my luggage to come out.

Finally, the two suitcases arrived on the belt, collected and put them on the trolly. Proceed towards the exit. Interrupted by the Quarantine Officer to check the declaration card. I have nothing to declare, so I was allowed to continue my walk towards the exit.

But you would not believe, even though it was an emergency/special flights, how many people did bring lots of food items, which was obviously taking time for other passengers to proceed as the airport was working within limited capacity.

I walked towards the gate for the bus. Just before I was out, the final counter had two young people again welcomed me back home and handed over a pack of snacks with Tim Tam, fruit bar, chocolates and a small bucket of water as a welcoming treat. Very impressive. Thanked them for their generous gift.

After that counter, I am out for the bus. Still inside the airport, few busses were waiting for us. We had to put our luggage’s inside the bus in the designated areas and sat inside while maintaining the social distancing rules. Hence, only 12 people on a bus with the capacity of 35 passengers. We are on our way to the hotel.

It took the bus few minutes to come out of the airport on the Tullamarine freeway. Melbourne was our first home in Australia since 1989 and we lived there for 10 years. Our Daughter Auditya was born here. Still there is a nostalgic feeling, whenever we visit Melbourne. But this is not the Melbourne I use to know. There are few cars, less traffic, while everybody on the bus was on their phone, probably texting their loved ones about the arrival. I called Nigar, first voice exchange since I left Bangladesh! The journey that no one thought, I had to go through. Her voice sounded so cheerful, satisfying, comforting, happy and loving that I felt wanted! I had to end that conversation as we were approaching to the hotel. I felt, that it was the ‘shortest’ conversation I had with Nigar over a long period of time, as I did not realise that I have been in a bus for last 30 minutes!

The bus just turned left to park at the front of the hotel. You would not believe, there was a ‘festivity’ of police force. As if the bus has brought few ‘criminals’ who may escape if there is any opportunity! Too many and too strong police presence!

The bus parked in front of the Novotel. We were instructed not to take any photographs of the Australian Government Officials, so I did not take a photo of any government officials from the bus window! The bus door opened, Government Officials came on board and requested us to remain seated. They were going to unload all luggage first. They did that and we gradually got out of the bus and walked to the main entry at the reception but maintaining strict social distancing measures. While waiting in the cue, two officers came to check whether I have the right forms and I did fill all of them. I passed again.

My turn came up. I was asked about any food allergy, any preferences of food. First answer no, second one yes, I requested for halal meal. They noted everything and handed over the room key – room on the 26th floor – room number 2603. I was directed to the last counter for the day.

This officer collected all other papers including the hotel food details, the family details etc etc. Gave me few other documents about the hotel, room service, food service, Wi-Fi etc etc. and also gave me one of my signed documents back, with my exit date written on it and asked to bring it back on my way out on 2 May. I was instructed to go to level 5 initially to collect my luggage and then go to my room. Yes, level 5 it is.

Hotel staffs were waiting there with our luggage after spraying those with disinfection as required. I collected my two suitcases and walked towards the lift. Again, due to social distancing, every lift will carry only one person. For the first time, I had my own lift, just to carry me on my floor. Felt like a 21st century king! I got off on the 26th floor. Turned left and walked along the corridor to find room number 2603.

Opened the door, pushed my suitcases in.

Wow! what a nice room with a big South-East facing window. Though it was almost evening, I could still see the Melbourne Bay on the SW corner and the city skyline on the SE side. Lots of familiar buildings – my old workplace when I left Melbourne in 1998, the Rialto Tower, the Convention Centre, the Crown Plaza, the Crown Casino and the famous South Bank Walk, but no one was there walking or jogging! All those buildings were just standing there as if someone ‘killed’ them. Just beneath the hotel, it is the Kings Highway taking traffic from the eastern suburbs to the western suburbs and towards the famous Westgate bridge. Not enough traffic but reasonable cars were travelling on that highway.

The room itself is a genuine self-contained room appropriate for isolation! A large double bed, a working desk and chair, a small buffet type area for the hot water kettle and food stuff with a small bar fridge with full of minibar goodies (soft drinks, chips and chocolates), teabags and instant coffee to last more than 15 days, cups and wine glasses. Interestingly, all of these were complementary! Wardrobe with iron board and iron plus a safety locker.

Food will be delivered three times a day. The hotel service people will leave the food outside the door and knock on the door to inform the food delivery. Due to the huge number of ‘guests’ the hotel has given us the time for food delivery on the 26th floor. Breakfast delivery at 7:00am, lunch around 11:30am and dinner around 5:00pm. Garbage collection, every night around 8:00pm. I must put all the rubbish in a garbage bag provided with the meal pack, outside the door by that time. In house room service including alcohol is also allowed but the expenses will be charged into my personal account. Any outside food delivery is strictly prohibited. There is also provision for smokers to take special permission for going to the designated area for smoking. All-inclusive four-star hotel room with limited service and free Wi-Fi included.

I called Nigar, to share my ‘excitement’ about the hotel, the room and the services! She was very satisfied but at same time highlighted that she would have a panic attack to be locked in a room due to her claustrophobia. Any way shared all the stories with her. Called Kishoree, shared all the stories with her. Same stories shared with Sagar Vai, Meghna (niece) , Amma, Reaz (Dhaka friend), Keka (sister), Kakoli (sister), Mintoo (Canberra friend) and Tauheed (Canberra friend). I wanted to keep these names for record as they were the first people called me to know my situation. Left messages for few Australian friends and family members – Raquib, Shaheen, Bulbul, Kabir and Raju. Talked to them later except Kabir, Bulbul and Raju. Informed Arastoo Vai (Dhaka friend) and Abir (nephew) followed by a text to the Build Bangladesh team about my arrival. Texted Samik (Melbourne friend) about the start of my quarantine in Melbourne.

While talking to Sagar vai, there was a knock on the door. Opened it, there was a big brown bag and inside was my dinner – Malaysian Chicken curry with rice and a nan bread plus a lemonade. Great food. Finished conversation with Sagar vai after ‘comforting’ him about the room, food and general service.

I had to call the house keeping for an adapter plug as my computer had an Asian plug and I did not have the converter. It was delivered in 10 minutes. Very impressive. I had my dinner by now. Good and tasty food. Had the Tim Tam as desert.

The hotel phone rang, and I picked up. There was a lady voice on the other side, identified herself as Maria Gilbert as the duty nurse calling from the ground floor to check out few details on my medication and health condition from me. Also informed, they are here for 24/7, I can call them anytime for any health-related issues. I gave her the names of my regular medicine. She wanted to confirm that I have enough supply for next 14 days otherwise they are happy to provide me with the required medicine. I was genuinely impressed by now. What a service!

Finally, responded to my emails as I got connected through free Wi-Fi. I was very tired by then. Shared some of the photos of the Bangladesh Government Quarantine centre with the family as I was feeling awfully bad for the people who were there. Finally, texted everyone good night as it was time for my regular prayers.

Day one finished, only 13 more to go and I am off to bed. Looking forward to tomorrow. Hope to do some works to make this quarantine time worth!

Good night.

“Isolation sometime offers
its own form of companionship”

Farhadur Reza Probal

Farhadur Reza Probal

Architect Farhadur Reza FIAB MPIA


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