An end of university trip of a lifetime was thrown into disarray amid the coronavirus outbreak for Warrnambool's William Howard.
After completing his Bachelor of Arts and Law at Australian Catholic University in Italy by studying a two-week intensive unit in ethics, Mr Howard, along with his classmate Lewis White, had planned a three-month holiday around Europe.
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind for the 23-year-old who arrived in Warrnambool on Sunday, March 22 after cutting his holiday three and-a-half-weeks short.
"Everything was changing and evolving so quickly," he said.
"No one had any idea what to do. People were leaving left, right and centre, it was crazy.
"Literally the day after we left Italy to Austria, they shut the Italian borders and the train we were on didn't operate.
"I felt like we were constantly just ahead of it the whole way through the trip until the very end."
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Despite his parent's concerns, Mr Howard felt there was nothing to be worried about as Europe was still open for business in mid-March.
The continent was a far cry to what the world is experiencing now; the streets of Italy, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands were bustling and there was no talk of a global pandemic.
"We went from the small city of Dresden in Germany to Berlin and at this stage it was all fine and Mum and Dad were in constant contact," he said.
"Mum said to me, 'don't you think you should come back and go back another time?' And I literally laughed at her and said 'that's ridiculous, there's no need'.
"I think Australia had a whole different approach about the virus from the get go.
"Mum and Dad were worried about it quite a lot earlier than I was as the feeling in Europe was so different.
"No one was scared, everyone was almost joking about it, particularly in Italy when I was there which was in early February.
"Perhaps that's why it's as bad as it is now."
Mr Howard began to worry after arriving in Berlin on Friday, March 13.
"The night we arrived everything was fine," he said.
"The next day we woke up and the government had announced all these restrictions and essentially in 24 hours, Berlin went to a ghost town.
"The hostel began to empty out, there was no one on the streets, all the museums were closed and the borders started to close.
"I then realised that if we didn't get to a country that still had its border open then we wouldn't be able to get home.
"We were due to leave Berlin on Tuesday, March 17 and we realised that could be too late so we brought the bus forward a night. The receptionists told us they thought it would be too late but we went anyway because we had no other choice.
"We got over the border thankfully and arrived in The Netherlands and everything had shut except for the coffee shops.
"The situation was just changing so much and there were so many mixed messages. I was getting messages from everyone, even people who weren't my friends. I felt like I needed a PR to keep up with all the messages.It was crazy.
"Mum and Dad really started to freak out so I decided to come home the next day."
During his flight home, there weren't many protocols except regular handing out of sanitiser and frequent announcements.
"One lady actually had developed symptoms on the flight," Mr Howard said.
"Our plane was temporarily quarantined and health officials had to board the plane and conduct tests on her before we were allowed to disembark.
"When we arrived at the airport we were given an information pack and had to sign a declaration stating that we would isolate for 14 days."
Mr Howard stayed in a hotel for his first night back on home soil and had a sign on his room declaring he was in isolation. Food was delivered to his door and he had to double bag all of towels, linen and rubbish and leave it outside the door so staff didn't have to enter the room immediately.
Mr Howard's parents drove two cars to Melbourne so he could drive himself to Warrnambool.
"It was such a bitter-sweet reunion," he said.
"Especially after how stressful the circumstances were surrounding me actually getting home.
"We said hi from a distance and they left me the car."
While in Europe, Mr Howard experienced all the symptoms of COVID-19; a sore throat, cough, fatigue, fever and sweats.
"I think I may have had it in Europe which would make sense because I went to every single hot spot and we were staying in backpackers," he said.
"Back then, they weren't isolating people and we weren't allowed to get tested in Germany and The Netherlands because they were only testing people over 70 or if you had severe symptoms."
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While trying to work out how to get home, Mr Howard's parents Brendan and Rachel were in constant contact with South West Healthcare. They booked him into an Airbnb and on Tuesday, March 24, Mr Howard went to the respiratory screening clinic for the test.
"The test is quite bizarre," he said.
"I arrived and there was a guy waiting for me in a full hazmat suit, glasses, gloves, like everything. He led me through the instructions. I had to put on sanitising gel, a mask, sanitise again and put on gloves.
"I went in to the testing room and a nurse took my temperature and pulse.
"And then it's the swab.
"It's like this long ear bud, put it right at the back of my throat on both side and I gagged both times. Then the same swab had to go up my nose and touch the back of my throat through my nose; that was very uncomfortable.
"They gave me an information pack, dispose of my glove and mask, re-sanitise and then I could leave.
"It was very quick and only took about five minutes."
Mr Howard's tests came back as negative the following Thursday afternoon.
"It was the trip of an lifetime for eight weeks but unfortunately it was cut short," he said.
"I should be lying on a beach in Portugal right now but instead I am in isolation in Warrnambool."
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