Sunday, 10 October 2021

Covid Tier 1 exposure, quarantine and testing - a Melbourne experience

A text from the health department to welcome me
to Tier 1 quarantine.

Covid has taken hold in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne lately.  We are in lockdown but there are still trips to buy food, prescriptions and, when necessary, to school.  It was decided, it would be helpful to send my daughter back to her high school for the last week of Term 3.  On the first Monday of the school holidays, we were advised that there had been a covid case at the school.  We spent about a week in uncertainty waiting to hear from the Department of Health ad Human Services (DHHS) and then about a week in quarantine (which I often refer to as isolation) at home.  It was very stressful, but I had to laugh at times to keep us sane.  Today I will share our experiences.

A traffic warden at a testing centre holds up a registration QR code.


Day 0 - my daughter, Sylvia, was exposed to covid at school (but not aware of it)

Day 2 - Sylvia got her first vaccination at GP

Day 4 - at 10pm we got notified by a message from the school that there had been an exposure.

Day 5 - we were told by the school that DHHS would contact us, that we could be Tier 1 or 2, and we should limit our movements.
Day 5 - we went to a drive through testing centre to have a covid test for Sylvia and me at 4pm.

Day 6 - I woke to my negative test results in a 5.30am text before an earthquake left us with no power but a strong belief that the apocalypse was truly upon us!

Day 7 - the school principal rang to check up on how we were going.
Day 7 - I rang DHHS because we had not received Sylvia's test results.  They told me that they had send her negative results to me at the same time as my results but they had the wrong phone number.

Day 8 - we had an email from principal to let us know that upon DHHS' request, the schoo had sent contact tracing details for everyone on site at the time of exposure.
Day 8 - received my first ever supermarket home delivery because we were avoiding the shops.

Day 9 - Sylvia had a text from DHHS to let her know she was a primary close contact and must quarantine/isolate til Day 14 and to await a follow up phone call.  Soon after I had a call from DHHS, which was mostly an overload of legalistic information and some questions such as did I want a separate place to quarantine, did I need a covid payment and did I understand the legal nature of my situation!  Then more texts as I had identified as a secondary close contact.  This means both of us were considered Tier 1. 

Day 10 - we had a text from the school to say it was cleared to reopen after the school holidays.  Sylvia needed a clearance letter from DHS to clear her to return to do her remote learning on site .

Day 13 - I took Sylvia for a Day 13 test.  This was mandated by DHHS and if she did not have the test she would need to quarantine til Day 28.

Day 14 - Again the negative results of the test were texted in the early morning.  It took until 10.20pm for DHHS to text to advise that Sylvia was released from quarantine at 11.59pm that evening.  As I had not had a test, I assumed this was for both of us.

Day 15 - It was so exciting to be out of quarantine.  It was only at 8.30pm that night that I got a text to say I was released from quarantine that I found out I should have delayed my excitement.  Oops!

Day 16 - I emailed a copy of the DHHS text to the school to clear Sylvia to return on site after the holidays finished.

The open gate where I take my bike has never looked so good
as when I first took it out on the first morning after quarantine ended.

What was unexpected about quarantine
I was both surprised and dismayed to experience just how overloaded the system is.  Luckily neither of us tested positive for Covid but if we had, there would have been 8 days that we could have exposed others to the virus:

  • It took DHHS until Day 9 to contact us about the exposure.  Which meant that although we should have quarantined for 14 days, in reality, we were only legally obliged to quarantine for 6 days.
  • I got daily text reminder that we were in isolation from DHHS (as if I could forget) but no one checked we were quarantining.  No requests to answer emails or visits from inspectors.  Maybe we were not important enough as just close contacts rather than covid cases.  They didn't even ask anything about our movements in days 1 to 8.
  • We are constantly encouraged to read the DHHS list of exposure sites.  Yet Sylvia's school was not listed nor were other local exposure sites that I was aware of.  I have lost faith in the exposure sites list.
  • The attention to detail both in testing and contact tracing was worrying.  When Sylvia first had her test, they managed to get her surname, her date of birth and her phone number wrong.  Then my name that I spelt out was misspelled by the contact tracers.  I am not Joahannah!
  • My notification of my release from quarantine came almost 24 hours after Sylvia's.  This seemed pretty unfair.  She was the primary close contact.  Why as secondary close contact did I have to wait longer?  Was it because I did not do a day 13 test, even though I was not legally obliged to?  And why did Sylvia get told she could end quarantine at 11.59pm on Day 14 when actually we were still under curfew and she actually could not go out until 5am the next morning?
  • Finally I was surprised when I spoke to one traffic controller and asked him something about the testing process and he replied that he didn't know because he had never been tested!  I would have thought if you spent your day working at a testing facility you would be tested occasionally.

My completed jigsaw with about 5 pieces missing
(Ravensburger No 2 Curious Cupboards: The Craft Cupboard)

Quarantine Entertainment
These were the worst school holidays ever.  I was so bored.  And I am not someone who is easily bored.  I was lucky that I am working from home so work helped me retain my sanity.  I really missed being able to go out riding each day on my bike and walks with friends.  I couldn't even chat to neighbours in the courtyard.  Thank goodness for phone calls, messages and acts of kindness by family and friends.  Here are a few other ways I passed the time:

  • I completed a 1000 piece jigsaw.  It was a nice way to turn my back on screens and be quiet.  I loved the unexpectedness of where pieces ended up.  And it was fantastic to see the picture come together.
  • Reading is always a great distraction.  I was mainly reading The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper which is quite a grim read about an Indigenous death in custody but did make me feel my lot could be far worse.
  • Streaming and knitting.  There was a lot of screen time.  Some of the shows included Friends, Secret Life of Us, Red Band Society, Pretty Little Liars, The Drum and Insiders.  I enjoyed some knitting in front of the telly.
  • Music and podcasts on Spotify.  I really loved "what Claire learned from falling" on ABC Conversations about Claire Nelson's fall in a deserted part of the Joshua Tree National Park.  Listening to someone talk about being so alone after a fall seemed relevant as I was isolating in my home.
  • Drone Photo Awards winners. These photos gave me a new appreciation for drones and the beauty they can bring into our lives.
  • Doomscrolling.  As usual I read too much negative news but it does give a fine appreciation of political humour.  My favourite satirical vid of late is Mark Humphries a Message from France to Australia about Submarines.  I have watched it a lot and it cheers me up every time.
  • Baking favourite choc chip cookies.

I've had enough of isolating. 
Notices like these are keeping me away from supermarkets.

Update mid-October:
Sylvia has had another Tier 1 covid case exposure at her school.  However this time the rules have changed (according to the school on Day 5 as we have not heard from DHHS).  Sylvia is primary close contact but because she is double vaccinated she only has to test and then isolate until the end of Day 7.  As a secondary close contact in her household, I just needed to take a test and isolate until I got a negative result and then I was free.  It was a relief that is is easier this time but nevertheless frustrating!


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, sounds like a real rigmarole and pretty disorganised from a public health perspective :( love that jigsaw! I also got into them during the NSW lockdown, I think I'm on no. 4 so averaging about one a month! Take care x

  2. I am so sorry to read of this Johanna. But admire your approach in what are really stressful times, but if you don't laugh you would surely do into a downward spiral and that is not good.
    Like you i was shocked to read that those working in a testing facility are not periodically checked as likely to be exposed. Boredom does indeed kick in when your stuck indoors, and getting lost in reading and rediscovering books in the attic, shed and shelf has done so much for me since the pandemic. I have not heard of The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper which you have descrived as a grim read about an Indigenous death in custody, and it has reminded me of a book that i am looking forward to read called The Fortune Men and tells the part truth/part ficionalised story of the last man to be hung in Wales, who was of Somali heritage. Thinking of you my friend.


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