Nicola Alpe is a Kiwi usually living in Los Angeles navigating Americans, motherhood and bad traffic. She's currently on an extended trip back to New Zealand.


Americans value their rights and they are not afraid to talk about them. For anyone brought up outside America, passionate discussions about rights can be baffling, and boring.

I am a rule follower but even so, I am astonished at the ready compliance of the vast majority of us when we went into lockdown. We surrendered our rights peacefully and for four glorious autumnal weeks we didn't think much of it. Quite the contrary to the scenes of Americans exercising their right to assemble, their right to not wear a face mask even when mandated and their right to ignore shelter in place orders.

To be honest, new Covid-19 cases don't bother me provided they are picked up whilst in quarantine and dealt with appropriately. I believe that we cannot and should not close our borders for too long. People are going to need to travel; for business, for family, for pleasure. Hanging our hat on having zero cases is unsustainable especially if citizens continue to fly back into the country from international hotspots. Because, you know, as citizens of New Zealand it's their right to return.

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The murky waters of rights regarding quarantine are rippling. I read that people were outraged when they learned they were being quarantined in Rotorua instead of Auckland, rightfully so if they couldn't fill up a water bottle I'll admit, but what difference does it make whether you are looking at bubbling mud or the industrial estates of Mangere? You can't leave the premises. But hold on, that appears to be what people have been doing. If not leaving the premises, then at least getting outside daily and having a chin wag with some other detainees. Their right to fresh air I guess.

I have had friends go through the process in Australia and they were not allowed to leave their rooms for 14 days. Not for fresh air, exercise, a walk up the corridor. One friend packed a screwdriver as an acquaintance had told her how he jimmied the window of the Travelodge. I implored her not to attempt to fiddle with her window, 25 stories up, for fear of her being sucked out. Admittedly, speaking to her was making me claustrophobic. When she landed she knew her rights would be restricted, and she didn't care because her objective had been fulfilled. She was in Australia which was better than where she had come from.

Maybe if people don't like their quarantine accommodation, they should be prepared to pay for an upgrade, writes Nicola Alpe. Photo / 123rf
Maybe if people don't like their quarantine accommodation, they should be prepared to pay for an upgrade, writes Nicola Alpe. Photo / 123rf

I welcome the move from the Government putting the military in charge after the bungles of last week. Furthermore, it's clever because the Air Commodore can be unapologetically firm with no fear of recrimination come September. It may be people's right to return to New Zealand, but how much longer should that right be free of charge when it comes to quarantine?

Maybe if people are so concerned about where they quarantine they should pay for it, or if they don't like the Government accommodation they can stump up for an upgrade. Bubble or not, at some point non-citizens are going to come to New Zealand and if they want to come and pay to spend 14 days in quarantine then we should consider letting them.

In exercising their right to return to New Zealand at this time, people have to surrender a few for a moment, rights they will have fully restored the minute they depart their quarantine as healthy individuals who have just protected the rights of the nation as a whole.

What's the saying? Short term pain for long term gain. Or perhaps it's more like one from my 5th form economics days, caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.