Following 20 days of home isolation Forster couple get the all clear

Since the coronavirus claimed its first Australian victim earlier this month, health authorities have warned older people and those with an illness were most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and could die.

At 72 and 73-years of age and having just returned from northern Italy, a Forster couple ticked all the boxes.

However, Margaret and Peter have defied the odds.

Last Sunday, March 22 following 20 days in isolation the couple had official confirmation from Hunter New England Health (HNEH) they would no longer be confined to their Forster home.

An ecstatic Margaret couldn't wait to let the many family, friends, neighbours and supporters know Peter was now negative, and that she had been tested and not even contracted COVID-19.

While the past few weeks have been a harrowing and uncertain period for the couple, it also confirmed the country's medical system is in good health.

The medical community, including doctors, nurses, HNEH and pathology have been so helpful giving us lots of good advice, they have been kind and caring, a grateful Margaret told the Great Lakes Advocate.

The couple's nightmare began in early March after returning from a two week skiing holiday in northern Italy.

They left Campitello, in the Dolomites for Venice on February 29 arriving in Sydney on March 1 via an overnight stay in Doha in the Persian Gulf.

Arriving in Sydney airport, they were driven to their daughter's Newcastle home via private transport for the night before arriving home in Forster.

Peter said he was surprised when they landed at both Kingsford Smith and in the United Arab Emirates their temperatures were not taken - considering where they had flown from.

"We were temp tested in Venice; that was the only time I was tested any where," he said.

Overnight, Peter - who had last year battled cancer - developed a cough.

"But, it was not like he was coughing all the time," Margaret said.

"He had no (COVID-19) symptoms, not even a sore throat."

"I was as good as gold." Peter said.

Concerned about her dad's health, daughter Angela - who works in the medical industry - suggested a check-up with his doctor.

With the benefit of hindsight, the couple is happy they took their daughter's advice.

The following day their family GP, gloved, gowned and masked, took a swab and they passed it on to pathology.

"And, that was the end of it - or so I thought."

Mindful of the developing situation around the country the couple stayed isolated until they received their results later that week.

"Lucky, we have enough groceries; family had shopped before we came home."

The bombshell came in the form of a phone call from NSW Health at 9pm on a Friday night.

"Pete had tested positive," Margaret said.

"We were on the phone for two hours with doctors and nurses."

The diagnosis opened up a can of worms as the authorities scrambled to contact everyone the couple had been in contact with during the past fortnight.

"Luckily we had all the phone numbers and our boarding passes; they were so appreciative."

He had no (COVID-19) symptoms, not even a sore throat.


As luck had had it, and recovering from jet lag their Newcastle grandchildren (12, 10 and six) had already left for school when they visited their family.

"But, without warning our daughter had to go into lock-down; both she and her husband have high profile jobs.

"We were in shock and upset; how were we going to do this?

For the first few days Margaret said she was very teary, fearing for Peter's health considering his medical history.

However, a stoic, fit and generally healthy Peter handled the situation very well, Margaret said.

"He relaxed a lot, read sporting magazines, entertainment himself watching the TV, and lots of friends rang; they were amazing."

For a fleeting moment Margaret feared they would be transferred from the comfort and familiarity of their home to Sydney or Newcastle to recover.

Margaret has only the highest of praise for NSW Health who talked and supported them through the entire experience.

"They advised us to up our immune system with lots of warm water and vitamin C."

The all-clear came via a much appreciated telephone call with the words: "I have some great news; you are free to go, you are no longer in isolation."

The couple was thanked for their patience and for being sensible during the past 20 days."

Despite the all-clear the couple plan to 'sit still' as Margaret put it, for the time being, venturing out only if necessary.

While they have enjoyed overwhelming family, friend and community support, there have been a handful of spiteful finger pointers.

Margaret advised the community to heed all the warnings and abide by the new government laws.