Paramedic in race against time to get home
THE MAGICAL thing about a home is that it feels good to leave, but even better when you return to it.
And for Bundaberg man Jonny Merefield, this couldn't be closer to the truth.
After working as a critical care paramedic in London, for the last five years, Mr Merefield couldn't wait to arrive back on home soil.
But in light of the current global health crisis and with travel uncertainties and constant flight cancellations, he started to worry about when the time would come.
"When we arrived home, I felt so elated," Mr Merefield said.
"I was concerned we weren't going to make it back and had to move our flights twice in the process."
Mr Merefield and his partner Lara Harris landed in Australia a week ago and not a moment too soon.
Just days later, the Federal Government would implement travel restrictions, followed by a complete travel ban.
"The U.K is two weeks in front of Australia in regards to isolation measures, but this is also due to much higher instances of COVID-19," Mr Merefield said.
"The National Health Service (NHS) has been at breaking point for the last two weeks and the London Ambulance Service has had an increase in their calls, from approximately 5,000 to more than 8,000 calls per day and that's just inside the M25 and Greater London area."
The critical care paramedic said an emergency hospital had been set up in London's ExCeL Exhibition Centre and the NHS had stopped conducting swab tests, as it had become apparent that anyone presenting symptoms had the virus.
He said the London public have been advised to only contact emergency services if they were suffering from respiratory problems, due to the high demand of calls.
"The general mood in London is steady because everyone is at the point they now know what needs to be done and from an NHS perspective they are preparing for more."
But the stress and efforts were well worth it, when the pair arrived in Bundaberg and received a warm welcome from loved ones, who were holding a personalised sign at the arrivals section of the airport.
"I have a very supportive family so I am very lucky," Mr Merefield said.
"We are currently staying with them in a semi-detached flat at the end of the house."
The couple are now in quarantine for the next two weeks and as Mr Merefield was a health worker, is deemed as high risk.
He has taken a swab test and is waiting on results as a precaution but said he has experienced no symptoms and feels healthy.
Mr Merefield urged the community to continue taking the necessary precautions and said the virus was not like other viruses and the influenza.
"Although younger generations are less likely to die from COVID-19, they are still carriers of the virus and they can infect the elderly and infirm, who are most at risk and people with cardiovascular and pulmonary disease," he said.
"Please isolate, especially if you have flu-like symptoms and just because you have not been overseas or travelled recently, does not mean you are exempt from the virus."