In Australia, the mandatory 14 day hotel quarantine due to the pandemic is federally mandated but it is run by the individual states and territories. Thus, each system will be slightly different. The concept is the same though, you are required upon arrival into whatever state or territory you land in, to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel that is randomly assigned to you.
There are some exceptions. If you score a DFAT flight you will be quarantined in the coveted Howard Springs facility in Darwin, Northern Territory. This hallowed and exalted facility, spoken of only in respectful whispers, is the stuff of dreams. Balconies and opening windows, separate bedrooms, your own cooking facilities. Magic!
If you have booked the flight yourself and you have children with you, you are normally placed in bigger apartment style accommodation. In this case, in Sydney, you might get opening windows AND a balcony. If you are ill, you may be placed in a health hotel, some of these hotels have balconies and cooking facilities but the food you receive could be frozen and you get to defrost it in a microwave.
Most people on the facebook group “Australians in quarantine facilities” and the offshoots “Australians quarantining in Sydney Hotels” (or whatever state or territory you are arriving in) agree that a balcony trumps good food. After all in Sydney at least, despite paying $3000 a person and $1000 for every extra person, you can order food in to supplement any meal disappointments. In Melbourne, so I’ve read, you may not order anything in at all.
In mid March, I spent two weeks quarantining in the Marriott Hotel, Sydney Harbour with my husband. My daughter, who quarantined in October 2020 at the Sofitel, Sydney told me enviously that I: “Hit the jackpot because you get the boxes.” She meant that we would receive all our food in boxes like a present three times a day. We did and it was good.
Here are my top ten tops for quarantining in HQ: TL:DR? Upgrade if you can afford it, rent a treadmill or bike, pack a yoga mat and dustpan and brush, arrange a pot plant, unpack, get wine, order in coffee, speak to the mental health nurse daily, do an online course.
- Join the Facebook groups “Australians in Quarantine Facilities” and the Facebook group relevant to the state or territory you are landing in before you fly (eg Hotel Quarantine Sydney). Wade though the complaining and some of the anxiety producing statements and pull out the practical advice. Joining this group made me even more extremely anxious, but also extremely prepared for anything. It is very important to resign yourself to no window opening and no balcony and to prepare your mind in advance for this. If you need therapy as part of your preparation, get it. Prepare your children. Do whatever it takes to accept this before you go.
- If you can afford it, upgrade. Save for it if you can. This was the single most important thing we did. It cost us $1400 for the two weeks. It could cost more. It is worth it. If you have the means to do so, save for it. We were fortunate enough to have two rooms. My husband set up his work station and I had space for my yoga mat and the treadmill. Prepare yourself that even though you might have the funds, there may be no room available. Prepare yourself for this disappointment in advance.
- Rent a treadmill or bike. First, check your hotel allows it then go ahead and get one from the many companies who offer it, deets on the facebook page previously mentioned. It cost $380. We both used it every day. Some companies will also send weights and a yoga mat. (The equipment is not appropriate if you have small children as it is too dangerous). If this is out of budget, walk the floor until you reach your desired steps. We did this for the first four days. It may take two hours. So what. You are in quarantine. Walk the floor and listen to podcasts or music or talk to your loved ones. My son in Melbourne called us every single day.
- Pack a yoga mat, a small dustpan and brush, we packed our own small kettle (it horrifies me what people cook in the hotel kettles yewww but if you aren’t squeamish/paranoid use the one in the room), I packed a small packet of camomile tea to get me started before I ordered from Coles or Woolies online, work out gear.
- A pot plant. My son, thank you Timothy, dropped a beautiful green leafy pot plant to the hotel. I convinced myself it was providing extra oxygen and it was very good for my mental health. He got to keep it afterwards.
- Unpack everything and have a space for everything. Note: I mostly wore active wear and changed into the same thing every evening for dinner.
- Order wine.
- I allocated funds towards two cappuccinos every day. It cost $350 dollars for the two weeks and was worth it. I did the figures and it was cheaper for the hotel to provide them to me. These small everyday treats make a huge difference. Costly exercise of course. If you are a coffee drinker, most hotels do provide a machine for coffee or pack a french press and order ground coffee from your fave coffee place or woolies. Be inventive. Plan in advance.
- Emotions are MAGNIFIED in quarantine. Use the mental health nurses. When the team called on the first day I burst into tears. The preparation for travel, the actual travel, the build up for quarantine, getting on the bus, being helped by the military with our bags, the police reading our the rules on the bus, not knowing where we were staying, its a big build up. I requested and received a daily call and told them everything about my feelings. Not the daily COVID symptoms call, an extra call where they ask you how you are feeling emotionally. That’s why they are there. If you need them. Use them. It helps. A lot.
- Prepare a hobby in advance. I chose a writing course. I also took my watercolours. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much done. It doesn’t matter. Structure your days but be flexible. I was surprised at how much television I didn’t watch! Call everyone you know if that’s possible. As my daughter said, “it doesn’t matter what you achieve, its quarantine. getting through it is the biggest acheivement of all.”
Other things to know:
- You will receive a PCR test Day 2 and Day 12.
- Try to meditate, do yoga or whatever exercise you prefer, daily. Structure helps.
- You will wonder after a while where the hell the oxygen comes from. I asked the mental health nurse. It gets in. You will survive.
- Day 4 and Day 10 were really tough. We were tetchy with each other, recognise it, get help, call your family., friends and the mental health team.
- Order in from Woolworths or Coles, I think the deliver fee is cheaper at Coles and if possible your family or friends could drop things off for you. We needed for example, Epsom salts for the bath. Yes. Needed.
- When you hear the knock on the door announcing food, wait a minute or two and then open the door to retrieve it. Wait also for other doors to open and close. You do not want to open your door the same time as someone else. Protect yourself. Wear a mask when you open the door – always.