Many Australians could end up spending the festive holiday period alone in isolation after being exposed to a Covid case even as governments resist shutting borders and insist Christmas won’t be cancelled.
Overworked health systems are struggling to cope up with new outbreaks and some state and territory governments have moved to tighten mask mandates and social distancing restrictions.
Adelaide man Geoff Goodfellow, 72, says at least three generations of his family will be spending Christmas in quarantine.
Goodfellow was exposed to coronavirus during a dinner to celebrate his son’s 50th birthday at Arkhe – a new restaurant in Adelaide – where his granddaughter works.
He said his granddaughter had no idea she had been exposed and infected when she greeted the family with a hug and a kiss before serving them their meals.
Two days later she called to say South Australia Health had declared the restaurant an exposure site and she was one of a handful of workers to test positive.
Several family members – including an emergency department nurse – had to isolate and endure long waits at testing sites.
Goodfellow said another son – who had also been at a separate exposure site – had a security guard try to solicit a bribe to move him into a priority queue.
“My son told him to piss off, basically, and had a further four-hour wait,” the 72-year-old said.
The situation meant long-made Christmas plans were immediately cancelled.
“Christmas day is a day we share as a family,” Goodfellow said.
“We’d eat inside and then sit outside under a white cedar tree in the shade in the afternoon and tell stories. But now everything is postponed until at least mid-January. It’s been a rather expensive dinner, to say the least.”
A similar story was shared by Amos, a 37-year-old who said he and his partner had been planning to drive to South Australia from Victoria the weekend before Christmas to visit family when his partner unexpectedly tested positive.
“Here’s your headline: We’re not travelling,” Amos said.
“We’ll be spending Christmas in quarantine, or at least my partner will be, as she’ll still be in quarantine riding out the end of Covid.
“We were going to stay for 10 days to see family, see nieces and nephews that we either haven’t met or haven’t seen in almost a year, catch up with friends – just actually enjoy a holiday.”
Amos, who didn’t want to use his real name, said his partner had tested positive two days before receiving any official notification of the actual exposure, forcing them to take measures without key information.
“It was pretty fucking serious,” Amos said. “It’s not something you want someone who you actually care about to have. It sucks even if you’re a double-vaxxed person.”
Though Amos has consistently returned negative results, he said the couple would be quarantining through Christmas while also attempting to take precautions within their home to prevent him being infected.
The situation means the couple’s Christmas plans will be postponed until at least March when they are planning to travel for a wedding and to celebrate a friend’s pregnancy.
“Political decisions have ruined our Christmas,” he said. “Ending mask mandates is just ridiculous. Two years into the pandemic and governments still not have seen the benefit of having a fully functioning public health system. It’s all really frustrating.”