A member of an Auckland flat has opened up about what it is really like to live in a Covid-19 positive bubble.
The Aucklander, who wishes to remain anonymous, has detailed the moment his friend found out she contracted Covid-19, which then spread to his partner living in the same flat.
For close to a month, the flat of five has been in quarantine while two of them battled the nasty illness.
Now they want to tell Kiwis what living with Covid-19 is really like and the impact had on the whole bubble.
Covid-19 first hit his bubble after his friend landed in Auckland from Los Angeles on Saturday, March 14 on American Airlines flight AA83.
Less than a week later, his partner, who is asthmatic, also had Covid-19 symptoms despite testing negative.
In a Q&A, the man from the Covid-19 positive bubble has detailed the process of getting tested, how symptoms reared their head, the speed in which the flat went into lockdown, the extent the other flatmates went to keeping their home germ-free, and their experience of the health system.
How did you first find out your friend had contracted Covid-19?
A friend of ours was visiting from the US on holiday. This was two weeks before level two was announced, before any travel bans or restrictions were in place. She landed in Auckland from Los Angeles on Saturday March 14 on American Airlines flight number AA83.
She received a call from the Ministry of Health three days later on Tuesday, March 17 informing her she sat two rows behind a gentleman who tested positive for Covid-19 and who showed symptoms on the flight. She was staying in the guest room when she found out, so we knew we were going to have to isolate.
From the time of landing, how long did it take before your friend showed any Covid-19 symptoms?
She got the phone call on the Tuesday, and from that moment on our whole flat went into isolation. By Thursday, two days later, she started developing symptoms like a fever, tiredness, dry cough, fatigue, mostly the hallmarks of what you'd expect from a cold, a flu and Covid-19.
After she showed symptoms, what was the process to get tested like?
The next day (Friday March 20) we called Auckland DHB, Healthline and the testing facility. It was at a time when the health system was trying to sort out the testing process. We got her tested the same afternoon. We went to White Cross, called in advance, and stayed in the car while we waited for the doctor to come out. It was a 45-minute wait before he came out in a full hazmat suit. She got a nostril swab, which went quite far up. They try to get into your sinus glands. It was kept up there for about 15 seconds while she sat in the car. Off we went and she received her results three days later, on Monday, March 23 where she tested positive.
How fast did her symptoms show and how quickly did she recover from Covid-19?
From the time her flight landed it took five days before she showed symptoms. From Thursday to the early weekend she felt unwell. By the time her test result came back on Monday she felt perfectly fine. She had energy, her cough had gone, she was relatively back to normal. She had lost her sense of smell during her illness. We could tell because she didn't realise she was burning her rice on the stove top. She was lucky to be a mild case.
How did you friend cope with contracting Covid-19? How did it impact her?
On the grand scheme of Covid-19 illness she was a mild case, but she did go through hell those two days of illness. It was hard for her to get out of bed but it was also hard to sleep, so she was uncomfortable.
For our friend when she was sick she kept to her room unless she had to use the bathroom. We gave her food and drink at the door. Basically it was like a prison cell for her. We disinfected everything as often as possible. She was good about it to be honest. One she finished using the bathroom or shower she'd ask us if we didn't mind disinfecting it. We were diligent about it. My friend got the all clear from authorities and flew back home to the US.
Your partner, who is asthmatic, then contracted Covid-19. How did Covid-19 impact her compared to your friend who showed mild symptoms?
My partner got ill on Tuesday, March 24, five days after our friend first showed symptoms She had a mild fever, fatigue, and a nasty cough, but she got hit harder as she has a history of asthma. Her symptoms lasted about five days, more than twice the length of our friend and she was stuck in bed for four to five days. Her breathing was pretty bad. She suffered regular shortness of breath. It was very effort-intensive to breathe and we at one stage considered calling an ambulance. It was difficult to sleep and to breathe. It was a nasty and challenging experience.
We got an inhaler for her from her GP. It helped her out a lot. She was puffing on it like a drug addict. It was necessary though. It helped her sleep, it helped her not feel like she was gasping for breath. We got her tested, but her result came back negative, which we believe to be a false negative result. All her symptoms indicated she had Covid-19, she had the same symptoms, a similar recovery time to others, there is no way it wasn't Covid-19. Where it took our friend two days to recover, my partner took about a week. But her lungs took a beating and it's still not back to normal. Her breathing is still a bit heavy. She's still considered a mild case.
How did you and your flatmates stay safe? What type of precautions did you have to take to keep everyone healthy and well?
Because we all had the foresight to isolate early, we had stocked up on canned food and non-perishable goods beforehand. We were good for two weeks. If we needed anything we had friends who would do our food deliveries for us and leave them at the door. We more or less all braced ourselves it was a case of not if, but when one of us would end up contracting Covid-19 off our friend, and as it turned out my partner got it.
We mostly kept to our own rooms as much as possible but we have shared facilities so it wasn't possible to completely isolate from others. As I mentioned earlier, we disinfected everything we could as often as needed.
We had to self-quarantine for 14 days after our friend recovered, and then another 14 days after my partner became symptom free, so while they got hit worse, the rest of us have to remain in quarantine longer.
Were any of you scared? What type of reaction did you get from friends, family and colleagues?
For all of us we were less scared about contracting the virus and actually more scared about what we didn't know about it and the flow-on effect it has, such as how contagious it is and how it can impact your entire bubble, even those who are well. Going into isolation before lockdown had some mixed reactions. I had some pushback from my employers who just considered Covid-19 a flu or cold. The reactions have been scarier and more of a concern than actually getting the virus. By the time my friend had it and recovered, we were all prepared what was to come if one of us had it.
We actually felt a lot more calmer than what many others did, who were running off what ifs, and what was floating around on social media. We knew what we were dealing with and had regular contact with health officials.
How was their experience with the health system? What extra checks were taken? Did you all feel supported?
We had a nurse call up daily asking how everyone was and thoroughly questioned every flat member about their health, symptoms and general wellbeing. Regarding the false negative, we were instructed to act like she was another Covid-19 case. No one took any chances in our flat. We are now on an automated email survey. It asks how many days of isolation we have left and whether we have developed any symptoms and you have to fill that in 14 days.
It's been very respectful and they both feel the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand healthcare system have done an amazing job. They've been treated so well, especially in contrast to the US healthcare system, where they are both from. The response has been proactive and appropriate. Even the nurses calling have a sense of humour so it was a friendly interaction.
When my friend got tested she was checked over in the A&E carpark. less than a week later my partner went through the drive-thru testing stations they set up with tents in carparks. You could only enter if you had booked and there was security on controlling traffic. The experiences of testing both times were reasonably different but quite a big improvement in less than a week. It was quite pleasing to see.
What advice do you give to anyone who is or may become part of a Covid-19 positive bubble?
Don't panic. Don't be terrified of it. Be sensible. We all know how to tackle the virus. Every bit of advice we've been told when we catch a cold, the flu Covid-19 we know, we know what to do but this time actually do it rather than ignoring it. Look after one another. Remain social with one another while keeping your distance. It's really helped.
Anyone who thinks they're more important than anyone else, that's not cool. Stay at home. People who are making unnecessary trips should face consequences. The better we are at self-isolating the sooner we can get out of lockdown.