Melbourne mother Emma was among the first group of 241 Australian citizens and permanent residents evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre Wuhan and quarantined on Christmas Island.
Emma and her two children have now been in the detention centre for more than 10 days, and are set to fly home on Monday.
Emma documented her time in quarantine for the ABC’s Chinese Service — here’s a snapshot of her experience.
Day one: first impressions
“When I first set foot into the room assigned to us at the Christmas Island detention centre, I felt uneasy and wanted to go back to Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
“I felt we were living in a prison or a refugee camp even though we are just ordinary people.
“At the same time, I also wanted to thank the Australian Government for providing us with a place for quarantine … at least we were only 13 days away from returning to our normal lives.”
Day two: health checks
Medical staff do regular health checks on evacuees at Christmas Island detention centre. (Supplied)
“It was not easy for the medical team to visit every room in the camp to check people’s temperature and health condition.
“They asked over and over again whether we have a fever or cough and reminded everyone to wear face masks.
“But why is there always someone who is not willing to cooperate? [Some people] went around the camp without wearing masks.”
Day three: settling in
“Today staff brought in diapers for young kids, balls for older kids, and daily necessities for adults.
“Although life on the island is not as comfortable as a hotel or home, the soldiers do their best to help us.
“The supplies are slowly being replenished, and the food is trying to meet our tastes as much as possible.
“I want to browse the internet, but it’s super hot outside. I want to be cool inside the room, but there is no internet in the room.”
Day four: fresh food
Fresh food, including strawberries, were provided to evacuees on Christmas Island. (Supplied)
“As I woke up in the morning, a mother from next door came running to tell me that fresh fruits and vegetables had arrived.
“There were not enough fresh strawberries for everyone to share, so several families shared a punnet, and many people did not get any at all.
“For the first time, I saw my kids eating strawberries so happily. I could sense their happiness and appreciation.
“My children were no longer picky about food. So I found out if you are worried about your kids not eating properly, you should let them go hungry for a meal or two. Then they will appreciate food much more.”
Day five: Chinese New Year
“February 8 marked the end of the Chinese New Year celebration. It was the fifth day on the island for us.
“The soldiers bought food from a local Chinese grocery store for us and it brought excitement and surprise to us all … the traditional thousand-year-old eggs, canned fish, melon seeds, snow cakes, and canned meats.
“To be honest, this year’s Lunar New Year had been a terrible one.
“After the Lantern Festival, the celebration would be over. Would everything be okay after this day?”
Day seven: kids get emotional
Bedding in the detention centre will be destroyed after the quarantine period is over. (Supplied)
“It was half way through our quarantine. It was also a new week.
“My sons’ friends would all be adapting to life at primary school. My son was a little emotional, missing his good friends and wanting to go to school. I told him we only needed to hold on a little longer.
“My daughter, who liked to follow her older friends, also became emotional.
“She wanted to take ballet lessons with her good friends. I also told her just to hold on a little longer.”
Day eleven: nearly time to leave
“I will miss everyone from the military and medical teams, who have ensured our life, health and safety here. It will be a wonderful journey in our memory.
“It has been a really difficult trip, it has taken us nearly a month to get home. But we are grateful that we can reach home safely and let our kids go back to their normal life.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey.”
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