What's it like being quarantined in a five-star Auckland hotel? Bubbles for breakfast and an acute sense of claustrophobia
Day 1: arriving home
I'm back. I'd left home on a four-week holiday in Micronesia. I returned to a different world. After a three-day journey through eerily abandoned airports and empty planes, I've made it home to New Zealand.
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With the handful of other passengers on the Air New Zealand flight home I am escorted through Auckland Airport, checked by customs, screened for Covid-19 (this consists of having temperatures taken by PPE-wearing medical staff), and put on a bus. We sit far apart.
We're here because the New Zealand Government currently has strict isolation requirements for every New Zealander returning home. All travellers must complete 14 days of isolation in a managed facility. We're told we'll be transported to a hotel in the CBD. We didn't realise it would be five stars.
When we arrive, we are taken off the bus one by one, interviewed, our temperatures taken again, given a bag of snacks (a sign of things to come) and sent to our rooms.
In the room I find a Ministry of Health "Guest Information" booklet. There are instructions on what to do with my laundry, how to order (and pay for) alcohol, and what to do if I start to feel sick (call reception, and the Ministry of Health will visit).
And then lunch arrives and it is amazing. Smashed avocado on sourdough bread, with a bottle of orange juice, a bit of cake, some chips and a chocolate bar.
I eat, then lie on the bed. I think about doing some yoga. I nap.
I wake up at dinner time, and dinner arrives: slow-cooked lamb shoulder with creamy polenta, green salad, and tiramisu. I eat, shower and then sleep some more.
Day 2: the menu
My friends are obsessed with the food I am eating. I send photos of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am considering starting an Instagram account to document what I ate in quarantine.
Each morning, a menu is left outside my door. There are three options for each meal - from wild mushrooms for breakfast to Akaroa salmon at dinner. The hotel staff calls my room each day to take my order. Then three times a day there is a knock at the door and a brown bag of deliciousness is left outside.
Today they brought pretty iced cupcakes with lunch. I begin to understand how my parents' dog feels - the door knock is triggering a Pavlovian response.
I have also become a stockpiler. The snacks are coming so thick and fast, I can't eat them all, so I've started hiding them in a cupboard. And then I eat them later because I'm bored, again.
Day 3: getting connected
We're not being served on crockery and cutlery, so everything arrives in plastic. I can't bring myself to throw all the containers into the rubbish, so I'm washing them and stacking them in my luggage. For that far off day when I will be back in my house with leftovers to freeze.
I have negotiated with the Ministry of Health to get my work laptop dropped off at the hotel. I give my mother strict instructions on what she should say if stopped by police. I tell her firmly to not put in ANY contraband (my mother has a tendency to hide chocolate bars in things as a surprise).
The operation is a success! My laptop is delivered to my room by a smiling member of the Defence Force.
Lunch arrives: pad thai, green salad, brownie, Doritos, a Crunchie, a mandarin and juice. So. Much. Food. I crack and buy myself a bottle of boredom wine. Hotel prices.
Day 4: Laundry duties
I finish the wine. At breakfast.
The hotel room comes with a giant TV with Sky. I also have my parents' Netflix login, and a pile of books I bought at LA airport. But I spend more time just staring out my window. We're allowed to go for a supervised walk once a day, but I feel weird about leaving my room. I'm not sure I want to walk around Auckland's CBD with a group of fellow isolation-ites. I've decided to just do my time; the outside will be there once I get out.
I am totally sick of my clothes. By the time I get home, I will have been wearing the same five outfits for nine weeks. I might burn them when I'm free.
Day 5: back to work
I've started work again. This is evidenced by the fact that I put on (yoga) pants. I can barely remember what I do. I give up early and go back to wearing no pants, and buy a bottle of prosecco. I run the shower so my neighbours can't hear me pop it. Turns out prosecco doesn't taste so good alone.
I meditate on the lovely Kiwi-ness of the situation I'm in. Of how polite everyone is being. At lunchtime, as people open their doors to get their bag of food there is a little chorus of "Thank you very much", and "You guys are doing a great job" down the corridor.
Medical staff come every second day to take my temperature. 36.5, 37, back to 36.5… Apparently 38 degrees is the danger one to look for. I'm not worried about getting sick - there weren't really enough people around in any of the airports for me to have interacted with. All the same, I am googling "coronavirus symptoms" …
Day 6: new hobbies
I wake up with a sore throat, and a sniffly nose. But they've gone away. It must have been the air-con.
I'm still struggling to get any work done - focusing is almost impossible when stuff is all so, well, weird. I accept a challenge from a friend instead and begin making origami towel animals. Because that is much less weird.
Day 7: the new normal is so strange
What is the etiquette for wearing masks in a quarantine hotel? I need to visit the lobby but I'm not sure if I should re-use my gloves. I get dressed up and walk to an elevator, where a man gets out wearing no mask, no gloves. I return to my room, choose a mask, no gloves. But I push the elevator buttons with my elbow.
We are allowed to take five pieces of clothes to be laundered each day. I choose three pairs of undies, a pair of boxer shorts and a T-shirt. The boxers and T-shirt come back on clothes-hangers. They have never been treated so well in their lives.
I am halfway through. Seven days and 21 meals in, seven days and 21 meals to go. I have hardly left this room. The staff are amazing, the food is five-star level. Everything is fine, and yet so very, very strange.
Our writer has chosen to remain anonymous.