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My day at a Sydney coronavirus clinic: four-hour waiting times and funny looks while people cough

Australian journalist Lauren Ferri explained her daunting experience in a coronavirus clinic.

The 23-year-old returned from Thailand with a mild cold, and what followed was a terrifying four-hour interrogation and a nervous wait for results.

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Four hours in a quiet room with 50 other sick people, an interrogation about my travels and glaring glances every time I coughed.

I never thought that two weeks of enjoying the sun and dancing in sweaty nightclubs in Thailand could land me in a hospital waiting room in Australia.

For weeks I had read and reported on the atrocities that had taken over countries like Italy, but it was only after I was tested that I realized how seriously this pandemic should be taken.

Days after my return to Sydney, I developed symptoms of a cold, but like every millennial, I assumed I was exhausted from lack of sleep and a stuffy plane ride.

For weeks I had read and reported on the atrocities that had taken over countries like Italy, but it was only when I was tested that I realized how seriously this pandemic should be taken

For weeks I had read and reported on the atrocities that had taken over countries like Italy, but it was only when I was tested that I realized how seriously this pandemic should be taken

In the coronavirus clinic at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in west Sydney, patients are told to sit 1.5 meters apart

In the coronavirus clinic at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in west Sydney, patients are told to sit 1.5 meters apart

In the coronavirus clinic at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in west Sydney, patients are told to sit 1.5 meters apart

After I was sent home from the office with a severe headache and sore throat and had just returned from a “ moderate risk ” country, I thought it would be best to get myself tested for coronavirus.

Although I am 23 years old and completely healthy, I suffer from asthma, so I thought it was best to get cleared up.

For peace of mind, I called my local doctor, explained my symptoms, and said I had recently returned from Thailand.

The medical center refused to see me and I was told to go to the coronavirus clinic at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown in the interior of Sydney.

“I’m just warning you it’s a walk-in clinic, so it’ll probably be a while,” said the receptionist.

Walking into the coronavirus clinic was probably the first time the severity of what was going on hit me.

I was told to disinfect my hands, put on a face mask and fill out an emergency form while I was 1.5 meters away from the 50 people waiting in front of me.

As each new person was sent in triage every ten minutes, the rest of us in line were moved forward to sit strategically around the room on the chairs.

Over the next three hours, boredom started, and my main concern went from catching the virus to asking if my phone’s battery would last the night.

Patients are forced to disinfect their hands, put on a face mask, and wait up to four hours to be tested

Patients are forced to disinfect their hands, put on a face mask, and wait up to four hours to be tested

Patients are forced to disinfect their hands, put on a face mask, and wait up to four hours to be tested

I became more and more aware of the judgmental looks I got from the people around me every time I coughed.

After three hours of waiting, I was finally called to triage where my temperature and heart rate were measured and asked what symptoms I was experiencing.

Shortly after the quick assessment, I was then taken to a room where I was asked, “What are you taking to the clinic today?”

I explained that I had symptoms of a cold and had returned from Thailand in the past week.

This is when the interrogation started.

For 15 minutes I was asked about every detail of my trip – my flight numbers, which airports I traveled through, my Contiki booking number, where I traveled in Thailand and how I got to each destination.

They also asked where I had been since I was back in Australia, which trains I took to and from work, how many shifts I completed, exactly which train I took when I went to Wollongong.

It was an agonizing four-hour wait as my phone's battery dropped below 10 percent

It was an agonizing four hours of waiting as my phone's battery dropped below 10 percent

It was an agonizing four hours of waiting as my phone’s battery dropped below 10 percent

After waiting three hours I was sent to Triage (photo) before being interviewed and my swabs taken

After waiting three hours I was sent to Triage (photo) before being interviewed and my swabs taken

After waiting three hours I was sent to Triage (photo) before being interviewed and my swabs taken

The nurses wrote down the names and contact numbers of my housemates, my grandfather, my work and everyone I had contacted.

I also had to tell them about every public place I had visited, from restaurants to bars and the local supermarket.

The nurses also explained that my results could last between 24 and 72 hours and that I should be completely self-insulated until then.

Self-isolation means absolutely no contact with anyone, wearing a mask when it is in the same room as other people, and not sharing a bathroom.

Since I lived in a part house this was simply not possible so I had the opportunity to stay in the hospital.

Fortunately, my parents live just 90 minutes away in Wollongong and the rest of the family was on vacation, so I was able to drive myself down and isolate myself.

After Question Time, I was sent out to wait another half an hour in triage before being taken to another room.

After waiting almost four hours, I was sent to a room with four chairs (photo) where I would wait for a nurse to call me to get my cotton swabs

After waiting almost four hours, I was sent to a room with four chairs (photo) where I would wait for a nurse to call me to get my cotton swabs

After waiting almost four hours, I was sent to a room with four chairs (photo) where I would wait for a nurse to call me to get my cotton swabs

There were four chairs in this room where we would wait for another nurse to take me to a small room where I had my cotton swabs taken.

There was a smear on the back of the throat and a smear went through my nose.

Once these were completed I received a nice gift bag with hand sanitizer and face masks before being sent out.

I left the clinic on Monday night around 7pm and had to enjoy myself until I got my results – which I was told would be until Thursday at the latest.

While I enjoy watching Netflix on the couch for a few hours, being forced to stay indoors was the opposite of fun.

Fortunately I got my negative results at 11 am on Wednesday and I was able to go out into the world again.

It was a relief to know that I hadn’t contracted the atrocity that I’d spent hours writing about and hurting about.

The guilt I felt when I saw my grandfather, colleagues and roommates was gone.

However, it has shown me how seriously this pandemic should be taken.

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