As case numbers rise in Australia and more people are being forced into isolation, there are calls for better awareness of support available
Last modified on Sun 19 Dec 2021 15.34 EST
A man who was confined to his room at his Melbourne sharehouse and forced to go to the toilet in a bucket after being diagnosed with Covid has prompted calls for better awareness of support available for people isolating during the pandemic.
Melbourne man Qas Ansari, 37, said he was worried he would pass Covid onto his three housemates, so they sealed off his room using plastic sheeting, building an airlock over his door, and for two days he used a bucket for a toilet and did not shower.
“I understood why it needed to be done, the hardest bit was using a bucket, but if I kept using the bathroom and kitchen I would create more opportunities to get ill,” Ansari said.
As Covid cases increase across the country and more people are forced into isolation, service providers are warning that for many people it’s not as easy as calling someone they know to drop off food.
In the lead-up to Christmas they say it’s important people know that help is available to those who need it.
After Ansari caught Covid in late November his household decided it was best he stay in his room – taking extreme measures to stop him coming into contact with others.
“What they did was they had two large plastics sheets,” he said. “One plastic sheet was attached to my door frame with gaffer tape on the ground. A foot gap was left, there was a second plastic sheet attached to the doorway.
“If I needed water or food or anything like that, they would place it on the inside, close it up and I would get a text message saying it was in the airlock.
“I opened my door and take whatever I needed so the air from my room wouldn’t go into the hallway.”
At the end of the day, he would put the bucket he used as a toilet in the airlock, and his housemates would take it away.
Ansari is double vaccinated but suffered serious Covid symptoms, including a high fever.
“I had wet wipes but even not being able to shower for two days, … you just feel 10 times worse,” he said.
“I had a high temperature, I was sweating in my bed, I would wake up with my clothes soaked through.”
Cohealth, a non-profit organisation that offers support for people diagnosed with Covid, called him each day to check on his condition. When Ansari didn’t answer the phone they sent a staff member to his home. After witnessing his set up, they helped him move to hotel quarantine.
“The first thing I did was just sit in the shower,” Ansari said.
Cohealth support runner Heather Svendsen said Ansari’s experience was an extreme case, but many people did not have the means to isolate comfortably.
“So many people do not have family or friends,” she said.
“I had a gentleman, I rang him, he said you’re the first person who has come to my door in six weeks.”
Svendsen said she has been organising supplies – groceries, medication, even laptops – for about eight people each day.
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Around 35,000 Covid-positive people have been referred this year to cohealth which serves north-west Melbourne.
She said the rise in the number of Covid cases had increased demand.
“Melbourne has been full-on for six to seven months now. It hasn’t stopped, our case numbers are still high.
“I think now with Omicron, it’s only going to get busier,” she said.
There have been moments of joy too – on one run recently to a public housing building one woman mentioned it was her daughter’s birthday.
“I couldn’t resist I brought her daughter a birthday, candles and candy. I couldn’t not do it,” she said.
“The mum was in tears when she phoned me. She rang my work and told them about it as well. It was beautiful.”
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Luke Atkin, who works as part of the Covid positive pathways program, said isolating was difficult for many people.
“I don’t think for anyone it’s easy, but for many people, it’s really hard for a whole range of reasons,” Atkin said.
“People living alone or are isolated, people who have caring responsibilities, or aren’t safe, or people who are living with a mental illness.
“This is a tricky thing being confined.”
Ansari finished his isolation period this week but still has a persistent cough so is waiting to go back to work.
“I’m desperate to get back to work and a normal routine. But there is a real stigma that comes with Covid,” he said.