WITH Melbourne in hard lockdown and community transmissions of COVID-19 on the rise, the reality is that any one of us could catch this deadly disease and find ourselves in a fight for our lives.
One unlucky Nambucca Valley resident found themselves in exactly that situation - this is their story:
Patient X* was on holidays in March when they first started feeling unwell (*The Guardian News respects the need for anonymity in this story, as the victim did not want to be identified for concern of being stigmatised).
"I was having coughing fits and I just couldn't breath ... you can't lie back because you feel like you will never get back up," Patient X said.
"This was nothing like the flu but where we were I couldn't get a coronavirus test.
"When we got home to Sydney, we travelled back up here by car - I couldn't bear the thought of being on a plane.
"I rang the local doctor ... and I had a COVID test. It's the cough that gets you - it's frightening."
The doctor, who practices in the Nambucca Valley, told the Guardian News when the patient rang and answered 'yes' to the initial COVID questions, reception staff knew immediately on-site consultation was not possible due to the high risk of infection.
"A telehealth appointment was set up and the patient was advised to stay at home and not go out," the doctor said.
"They had already contacted the Emergency Department at Macksville Hospital and had a COVID test.
"Initially the patient felt short of breath, was coughing and felt fluey ... but it got worse over time and they could not get out of bed. We set up daily appointments, weekends included, where we checked temperature, pulse and blood pressure, as well as monitoring fluid intake.
"The ambulance was called when the patient was not able to speak in full sentences and pulse and blood pressure changed. At no time did the patient spike a temperature."
The doctor said internet bandwidth issues meant appointments were via zoom and included contact with public health and emergency department staff, making it like a virtual ward.
"It was invaluable to be able to talk to other health professionals. The daily consultations were then discussed with the team of doctors, which allowed us to plan.
"When the ambulance had to be called, a 'red' corridor was set up to allow for a fast and efficient transfer from home to the COVID triage area, thereby keeping other patients and staff in the local emergency department safe."
But being in hospital, in isolation, was of little comfort to Patient X.
"No one wants to come anywhere near you or touch you ... you get put in isolation and then pretty much left alone. I understand that they don't want to come near you but it is stressful to be on your own like that."
Returning home after three nights, Patient X continued to isolate with family support in a large home. Daily contact with both the GP and the Health Department continued.
Three weeks later results from tests done at the drive-through clinic in Bellingen* gave family members the all-clear ... that was four months ago, but life is far from 'back-to-normal'. *Open Monday-Friday, 1pm-2pm.
We try to keep socially distanced but people really don't pay much attention - I could choke 'em!!! Don't they realise what happens if you carry this into our family?Nambucca Valley COVID-19 patient
"We don't go out much and when we do, we don't stay out long. We try to keep socially distanced but people really don't pay much attention - I could choke 'em!!!
"Don't they realise what happens if you carry this into our family?
"The cough is still with me and a lot of fatigue, that is the hardest part ... and we are still sterilising everything at home. Everything gets washed and cleaned, including the cars - and even the dog."
The doctor said that although Patient X was now fully recovered, the breathing issues were permanent.
"I really admire this person - they had a terrible time and now they are recovered.
"This is someone we should all listen to and learn from. Wear a mask and sanitise - it is not hard!
With masks now being recommended, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian continues to stress the importance of physical distancing.
"People should continue to maintain their physical distance - it is our most effective weapon. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you can't maintain your physical distance you should wear a mask," Ms Berejiklian said.
"It is critical the community understands masks should be used in conjunction with other measures, and not as a stand-alone measure."
Masks should be considered a "fourth line of defence" after staying home if unwell and getting tested, maintaining 1.5-metre social distancing and good hand hygiene.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said masks were not suitable for everyone such as young children.
"Currently in NSW, the rate of community transmission does not call for mandatory mask use in the general population," Dr Chant said.
"However, along with practising good hand-hygiene, people are encouraged to wear face masks particularly in indoor settings where physical distancing is hard to maintain, such as on public transport. Most of all, stay home if you are unwell."