A young Brisbane woman working as an au pair in northern Italy is relieved she managed to flee the country before it became locked down as coronavirus turned her trip of a lifetime into a nightmare.
Arielle Turnbull,18, has fled across the border to Switzerland after arriving in Italy on January 3 for an au pair adventure in the small town of Verano Brianza, about 45 minutes north of Milan.
As Italy became the world’s biggest coronavirus hub after China and the country ground to a halt, she had no option but to leave Verano Brianza.
Having crossed over the Swiss-Italian border to the town of Chiasso two weeks ago, Ms Turnbull says she was lucky to get out before strict quarantine rules were imposed on the northern Italian region of Lombardy.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put the entire country into lockdown on Monday, banning all but the most important cross-border travel. Lombardy is expected to remain under quarantine until at least April 3.
“I was lucky I left when I did but everyone is stressing, even my new host mum keeps saying ‘don’t leave the house, don’t go into Italy’,” she told AAP on Tuesday.
“Everyone is very scared, especially for their older parents.”
Ms Turnbull, who subsequently worked as an au pair in Switzerland, said many of her friends were stuck in Italy or had already left.
Her host family became anxious after she returned from a trip to Venice on February 25 as coronavirus spread dramatically trough Italy.
“The family was so scared they made me stay in my room. I couldn’t even hug the kids goodbye when I left,” Ms Turnbull said.
It all just hit me like a tonne of bricks, it was like the world is ending.”
Ms Turnbull is due to arrive home in Brisbane on Wednesday night after booking flights on Sunday.
“I was so sad, I cried all day Sunday because I was so devastated,” she said.
“I couldn’t sleep and I just kept punching my pillow but now that Italy has been closed I know I made the right decision.”
When she arrives in Brisbane, she will begin a 14-day self-isolation period.
Ms Turnbull said seeing her father would be a silver lining of her return to Brisbane but the pair will not be able to spend time together as her father’s diabetes increases his risk of coronavirus.
Currently unwell, she is unsure whether she may be a carrier but hopes things will be clearer once she arrive in Australia.
“I’m so sad I won’t get to spend any time with my family, my dad is like my best friend and he was sad I had to cut my travels short,” Ms Turnbull said.
More than 460 people have died in Italy from coronavirus from over 9000 cases.
By Ashlea Witoslawski