Since Saturday night, Edmond has not left the tiny room with just a bed, shower, toilet and sink.
The 38-year-old Cameroonian refugee had been getting back into exercise, doing big workout sessions over three days last week. By Saturday, his body was hurting all over. Amid Melbourne’s cold weather, he had a little bit of pain in his throat and thought he might have a mild fever coming on.
So Edmond, who has been detained at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre for the last eight months, asked a security guard for two Panadol.
The guard called a nurse, who asked him a few questions over the phone. The nurse then called her boss, who ordered Edmond into quarantine.
He was taken to MITA North, a high-security compound he had never been to before, and locked in the small room he is now very familiar with.
“I’ve never been in a jail, but the way they have built the room is like a jail,” Edmond told BuzzFeed News by phone on Monday night. “Quarantine is not jail. Quarantine means they put you in isolation.”
Guards pass his food in through a window in the door. He communicates to them by pressing a button on the wall. The shower is built into the room, with no door, curtain, or anywhere to put his towel. A window that looks outside was covered up on Monday morning. The sink, where he keeps his toothbrush, is built into the top of the toilet. A camera films him everywhere in the room, at all times.
“When I’m going to the toilet, the camera is in front of me,” he said. “My privacy is out.”
As the coronavirus pandemic has spread through Australia, the government has resisted loud calls to release immigration detainees. Its strategy instead is to prevent people from bringing the coronavirus into detention facilities, by banning visits, and to test and isolate any suspected cases. Edmond’s experience shows just how cautious authorities are being.