ACT authorities are aware of at least 450 people in isolation for Christmas this year, after coming back from overseas or coming forward about having been in a recent COVID-19 hotspot.
Epi Terbio, a postgraduate law student at ANU, is one of them.
"People have been very supportive," Terbio told the Canberra Times. "I really thought I would spend Christmas alone. I did, physically, but it doesn't feel like it."
Terbio visited Manly Beach just before it was declared a hotspot, during a four-day farewell-trip through Sydney with his girlfriend, Alyssa. She was to fly back to the Philippines on December 20 after studying in Canberra this year.
When news of the Northern Beaches outbreak broke, Terbio realised he might have to quarantine. His first response was to tell the ANU campus residence where he usually lives while studying for his Juris Doctor. "I might pose a risk if I come back to my residential hall," he said, and sought out the protocol for isolation on campus.
"We couldn't really travel because of restrictions and it was her first time in Sydney, so we were going to roam around and see it before she left," Terbio told the Canberra Times. "But then this thing happened, so that was it.
"I cancelled our plans for the day, and as much as possible just stayed in our hotel in Woolloomooloo. I was being really cautious of every movement. If you're going out, always wear a mask, avoid public transport."
Before returning to Canberra, Terbio tried unsuccessfully to get tested at two walk-in clinic locations in Sydney. Tens of thousands of others in NSW were trying to do the same thing, so long lines made it difficult. Then he made the decision to return, enter isolation and get tested in Canberra.
The first night back in Canberra, a senior resident from Toad Hall greeted Terbio in personal protective equipment and escorted him to the isolation room where he would spend the night. He's now in a one-bedroom self-contained apartment on campus for the duration of isolation.
Terbio has since learned his first test was negative to coronavirus. Under the ACT Health guidelines, he'll have to stay in isolation until 14 days from exposure, regardless of the test result, meaning Terbio will be in isolation until the new year.
Authorities from ACT police and ACT Health have been keeping tabs on Terbio throughout his isolation.
Every day he has a questionnaire sent to him to fill out, and if he fails to respond they'll follow-up with a call: have you had any symptoms, have you had a COVID-19 test in the last 24-hours, and have you received a result in the last 24-hours.
While isolation usually has the implication of loneliness, Terbio has been inundated with messages and care packages since returning. Some friends dropped off plenty of Filipino food, others brought him chocolate.
"The vegetables are from my brother because he wants me to eat more vegetables: 'People are bringing you too much meat, I'm bringing you vegetables.'
"My brother did my groceries for the whole two weeks, but with the amount of food I got for Christmas I think I've got enough to last me for a lot longer.
"Some would even come just to see me, just to say hello. For me, that means a lot."
The campus quarantine has Netflix and Terbio has his iPad, but hasn't had time to binge any television.
He's also been playing Pokemon Go. There's a PokéStop within reach and he's been sending gifts to friends in the game.