• Annemarie Rawson

Quarantine in NZ

The mist of jetlag is lifting and Steve and I have a quarantine-window view of the surrounding apartment towers as well as a filthy concrete wall directly outside, covered in pigeon poo and mould. It’s certainly not a view that reflects the real Auckland.

In March 2018 we blew into London on the coat tails of the Beast from the East, where sleet turned our eyes to slits and our feet slipped and slithered on black ice hiding in the pavement cracks. It was then fitting we left London in October 2020 with the skies raining down and the wind whipping our coats up.

Our many suitcases were quickly stashed in the back of the people carrier as fallen leaves swirled and lifted around our feet. Our shouts of goodbye to some of our ‘flatmates’ huddled and waving from the steps, were thrown back at us by the high wind and rain.

Walking through Heathrow Terminal 2 was a scene from an apocalyptic movie – a once thriving ‘city’ of wall-to-wall people, shuffling like automatons in the security line, removing belts and shoes, frustratingly slow to get Ipads, laptops, phones and gadgets into the trays and moving along the conveyor belts, is no longer. Only three lanes were operating, well distanced, with one customer at each. The din of piped music, the ding-dong of flight announcements, the call of the security people to remove this, that and the other, people chattering, music blaring from boutiques – all silenced by an invisible demon. It was surreal.

No health checks were being done on entering the terminal, surprisingly. Our temperature was taken at the Singapore Airline gate just before we boarded. In transit in Singapore itself our temperature was taken walking into the lounge area and again as we left to re-board, onward bound to Auckland. Singapore Airlines did a great job of seating everyone with plenty of row spacing.

No health checks when we arrived in Auckland airport. Our quarantine destination, The Pullman Hotel, Auckland City, was advised via a signboard as we boarded the designated buses, waiting for us at the terminal door.

Pulling into the hotel car park, eight people – totally suited up in blue plastic, masks and gloves, walked out to meet us. The NZ Army is in control of our hotel and security is everywhere. As of now, it is not a hotel. It is a facility to house returnees. We left the bus in ‘bubbles’, identified our suitcases, got ourselves checked in, completed menus and given loads of information for the coming days then directed to our rooms.

I think our room must be on a floor where the rooms are waiting to be renovated. With battered furniture, badly stained and dirty carpet and a bathroom door that looks like a rat has been gnawing at the bottom of it trying to get out, this room is singularly unappealing. The bed, however, has lovely linen, is large and oh so very comfortable. Utter bliss.

The exercise yard is L shaped, leading off a ballroom which has been cleared so people can extend their walk to include the inside walls of the room. Luckily, we can go most times of the day and it is intensively supervised by the army and security personnel to ensure people are not too close. You are checked in and checked out of the area which is open from 7.30am-7.30pm except for an hour’s closure at lunchtime and when new ‘lepers’ arrive at the hotel. There is quite a lot of ill-feeling and a bit of a backlash against those of us (New Zealanders) who have decided to return to New Zealand as it is ‘us’ that is bringing Covid into the country. Sadly, some selfish returnees have created this animosity by escaping from quarantine or indulging in intimate practices with outsiders whilst ‘positive’ with the virus and thus spreading it in the community.

A nurse visits us each day and takes our temperature and tomorrow is our first ‘swab’ day. We are being well cared for and are grateful for that.

With so many varying tastes and diets, it’s difficult to get the menus right for everyone. Cakes or pastries with every meal is not ideal for me, as well as bags of crisps/chips and I’m struggling with the amount of potato and rice. Fruit is included with breakfast and a piece of fruit is included in the lunch bag. Sadly, we are not allowed to have people deliver any home-cooked food to us but can order in any Uber-Eats and get an online delivery from Countdown. I’m already looking forward to green salads at Jill’s place once we have done our stint.

I’m giving you my experience to date and it will, of course, not be the same as anyone else’s.

Thanks so much for all the lovely messages and calls, welcoming us home. I look forward to truly being ‘home’ once we have completed our 14 days and have ‘WELL’ stamped on our forehead and passport when we leave here.


Some of the chaps in the flats wanted to say goodbye

The empty concourse

The silent security conveyors

first sighting of New Zealand - land of the long white cloud

Waiting to go through security at Auckland airport - and yes I know Steve doesn't have his nose covered

The view from our room. At least we see sky and have opening windows

Steve on the exercise square/rectangle

This was my vegetarian lasagne ...

Peas, corn, carrots with strips of red pepper - straight out of a freezer packet, I imagine and a sheet of pasta on the bottom of the box and one laid over the top with a squirt of liquid cheese. The most unusual vegetarian lasagne I have seen.

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© 2020 by Annemarie Rawson

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