Girl’s 30 Minutes With Dying Father Due To Quarantine
In the last moments she ever had with her father, Natalia Southern only had 30 minutes to say goodbye.
When she entered his 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 be three feet away from him.
Her mother and brother were not allowed to be in the room with her when he was dying. She was alone.
Southern’s father, 88-year-old Manuel Nunes, did not have coronavirus. As far as she knows, neither.
But Southern had traveled from Melbourne to his hospital in Perth, Western Australia, where cases of COVID-19 have soared in recent weeks due to a collapse in the country’s quarantine procedures.
The merciful release exemption granted by government officials to leave Melbourne’s strict lockdown and travel to her father’s bed when he died of complications from vascular disease extended only to that brief parting.
When he died less than 10 hours later, she was alone at the hotel in downtown Perth, where she and other newcomers to the city had to be quarantined for two weeks.
“The biggest fear you have is that you will never make it on time and end up missing out,” she tearfully told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview from her hotel room. “Even though I was there for 30 minutes, I would have stayed with him until the end if I could.”
Southern’s story is an example of the heartbreak in Victoria, Australia’s second largest state, as they face a second lockdown to help reduce the spread of the virus. There were 403 new confirmed coronavirus infections and five deaths in Victoria on Thursday, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said. That number was only slightly lower than Wednesday’s 484 new cases.
Up until the last few weeks, Australia had seen relatively few cases of the coronavirus. As a precaution, all arriving passengers from overseas had to be quarantined in hotel rooms for 14 days. The federal government shut down many businesses and placed size restrictions on social gatherings in March as part of an aggressive social distancing campaign.
Over time, life slowly returned to a sense of normalcy. There was even discussion of opening a “travel bubble” with New Zealand that would effectively eradicate the virus.
But then came the second wave.
Officials have conducted an investigation into how the virus has resurfaced in Victoria in such large numbers. There is evidence that most of the cases could be linked to the hotel’s quarantine program. Some private security guards reportedly have poorly trained security guards and even sex travelers.
Wearing masks is now mandatory in Melbourne, where residents are facing another six-week lockdown that is expected to cost billions of euros on the Australian economy.
People are only allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons, and large gatherings are again banned as the police fined heavily for rule violations. In one case, 16 guests attending a house party were fined A $ 26,000 total, roughly $ 18,000, when authorities discovered the gathering after being alerted to an unusually large KFC order after midnight.
Other states have closed their borders with Victoria for the first time in a century.
Southern, who first shared her story with the Australian public broadcaster on Wednesday, told BuzzFeed News that she understands why the tough measures are needed. While the lockdown was difficult for her athletic children, an 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter, she said her family had moved on just as best they could.
But she is still shocked by how difficult it was for her to get permission to be with her father. She had to find her way through a jumble of confusing bureaucracy, mixed reactions and, ultimately, the strict and sterile goodbye that she had finally received.
“I have no problem with them saying you have to wear a mask, you have to stay inside, 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 safety with the needs of the individual in these extraordinary circumstances, and I don’t see that.
“I don’t know of any circumstance in which, when 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 has to deal with her grief alone in a strange and soulless hotel room.
“I wouldn’t care about the 14 days in the hotel. I really wouldn’t,” she said as she collapsed crying, “but I have no one and I know my mother is at home and all I can call her .
“Sometimes [when grieving]”You just want to sit still, but when you’ve been with them, that silence with someone can be valuable because that person is there and you can see their face and feel their pain – but I don’t even have that.”
Now she’s faced with the agonizing decision of whether to try to get her partner and children to a funeral in Perth and endure the quarantine herself.
She’s not sure what to do. Still, she is grateful that she even managed to say goodbye to her father.
Manuel Nunes died more than half a century after moving to Australia for the first time from his native Portugal in search of a better life. He worked as a carpenter, toured the country and helped build towns and cities in some of Australia’s most remote areas. He married and fathered a son and then a daughter who was there as best she could to say goodbye.
“I think he was waiting for me,” she said.