Tuesday 15th of December and just 4 more days of “managed isolation” to go. Life in our 12th floor hotel room has been quite comfortable so far, except for the fact that we cant can’t go outside whenever we please and that we have no windows that open. We are at the Grand Millennium hotel in Auckland and it probably was “grand” in its heyday (the 80s?) but a tad dated now. Nevertheless we have a large bathroom with a separate bath (much appreciated by yours truly), a super comfortable bed and best of all, we have a large window so plenty of natural light (although, of course, we cant open it). The numerous employees here are truly wonderful – kind, patient and super friendly. Overall, we feel well looked after, safe and relaxed, if a little irritated by what are most likely dust allergies.
Today is typical of the last 10 days. We are sitting in our hotel room at our respective “desks” with our laptops and headphones doing the sorts of computer-based activities that we would do back home. For Christian that involves work, reading news, Facebook, football (soccer), computer games etc. (Yesterday he was looking longingly at 80’s Toyota Land cruisers for sale and on Sunday it was yachts!) For me it involves online study, Duolingo, Instagram, struggling to upload dj mixes, emails, phone calls with the family and friends and today I am writing this blog post. So you see there is plenty to do!
We have meals delivered 3 times a day that we select from a menu every 4 days in advance. In addition to the tasty and healthy (in our case) vegan and vege meals, we can order extra food and drinks from a menu and even order home delivery from other food outlets. We can also have folks drop off care packages for us, so long as they are alcohol-free. They obviously want to monitor how much alcohol folks are drinking. This is after all “managed isolation” and drunk folks can be tricky to “manage’. They may feel less inhibited after a tipple and decide to party with the neighbours or perhaps even attempt an escape. (Apparently quite a few folks have absconded from managed isolation facilities. I guess 2 weeks of isolation is just too long for some…)
So just how isolated are we? Well we do actually get some contact with the outside world. For example, we are allowed to greet visitors at the hotel entrance through the 4-5 metre fenced off area that divides us from them. This definitely feels awkward but is effective so long as you and your visitors are the only ones attempting to communicate at one time. During my mum’s weekend visitation, we had only a few audible exchanges before another group of visitors began shouting to their mates next to us. Suddenly communication, for our party at least, became impossible. Using the phone to communicate between the bars seems a better option.
This particular area, is not only for shouting at visitors, but also serves as a dedicated space for circuitous walking – a popular activity for prisoners and managed isolationers alike. The space measures approx. 15 x 8 metres and is undercover, doesn’t receive sunlight and feels pretty gloomy, but at least it’s a chance for exercise and fresh air. (Ok relatively fresh air –we’re in a city after all)
The more popular outside experience (and the only other outside offering) is a once-a-day, 40-minute walk around a terrace on level 4. Whilst this area can hardly be called pretty, there are at least some plants, places to sit and, best of all, open sky and usually sunshine! There are set, 40-minute time-slots throughout the day accommodating a maximum of 15 people to allow for 2-metre social distancing. The one problem is that this activity can only be booked a day ahead and early or else you simply miss out. On Saturday, despite my morning meditation, I had an angry outburst when I realised it was already 10:40am and I hadn’t booked our walk yet! I dashed down to the lobby to discover there were, of course, no more slots available…. argh. The early bird gets the worm and apparently there are not enough worms to go around. In any case, I have now stuck a reminder note in front of the kettle and set an alarm on my phone as back up! Fresh air, walking and sunshine = sanity.
What else? Well we have random temperature tests each day. A friendly someone will knock on our door and ask how we are feeling, hold a thermometer to our foreheads, offer a smile or anecdote, wish us a happy day then trot along to the next room dweller. We did have official Covid-19 tests on day 3 and our next test is on day 12. Then, provided we get the all clear again, we will be set free early on Saturday morning!
The only serious gripe I have is that all our meals come in plastic takeaway food containers that the hotel will not recycle. In the notes provided we are encouraged to wash and recycle these items ourselves, which I have been diligently doing. We now have around 80 plastic containers, neatly stacked and ready for transport but of course more will come.
I really don’t feel comfortable about all this plastic waste. Could they not have served meals in paper containers? After all, the meals are delivered in brown paper bags so there is an attempt to be more eco-friendly. (I am recycling the bags too!) Sadly, judging by the size of the black rubbish bags left outside many of the hotel rooms, lots of folk are not bothering to recycle. Perhaps they have too much to do?
The other issue is that despite clearly stating in our food preference that we don’t want desert, we keep getting deserts! Each unwanted desert item naturally comes in its own unwanted plastic container. We are not desert eaters as a rule but today, having taken all these sugary items out of the fridge and seeing just how many neglected deserts there actually were, we took pity on a couple of them – vegan coconut and berry cake for me and baked Alaska for Christian. A very rare moment for we usually stand firm in our resolve not to eat cookies or cakes…although I admit that Christian has more will power than I do in the face of such temptations.
Overall we feel extremely fortunate to be in New Zealand right now…far away from the surging 2nd wave of Covid-19 in Europe and soon able to see family and friends and enjoy the New Zealand summer. New Zealand currently has only around 55 active Covid-19 cases and a grand total of just 25 deaths resulting from the virus so far. It is clear that the NZ government has done a fine job in protecting its citizens from the deadly grip that the pandemic has on other countries. Plus, for me, New Zealand is home – well one of my homes. I guess I have 3 now…Auckland, Sydney and Munich.