In March 2020, the Morrison Government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all residents returning from overseas. Whether the drastic measure is considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated, and it looks like it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 🏨
After looking on from afar for months, it’s now my turn to do my time in quarantine. Following a string of flight “cancellations” due to caps on international arrivals, it seemed like the least of my worries. ❌
Note: this is based on my personal experience as a single in Brisbane; check out this great guide for families. There are also a number of variations between hotels and jurisdictions.
At the airport
On arrival, you will queue (observing social distancing) and continue to wear masks. There may or may not be Wi-Fi; Sydney provided it, Brisbane did not.
First, you’ll follow standard e-passport customs clearance and baggage collection. If you need to pee, go now! 🚻
We also queued for a sniffer dog check.
Next you’ll speak to the police and have the Quarantine Direction read out to you and be informed of your hotel name and address. You’ll also receive a bunch of paperwork, so carry a pen and a document sleeve.
Afterwards, you’ll be ushered to a waiting area until everyone has been processed.
Finally, you’ll be called to board the coach under military supervision. They will load your bags while you have your attendance checked before you board. There’s a police escort to the hotel and more military waiting at the other end.
Ah, great to be home circa 1788. ⛓️
At the hotel
Check in was quick as we’d filled out our forms at the airport. Plus, hotels have been going through the motions for months now.
You’ll be informed of your room number and handed a welcome pack containing details about meals, room facilities and services, as well as who to contact if you feel unwell or need help.
Some people get lucky, but chances are your room won’t have a window that opens or a balcony. I find setting air-conditioning to 23°C is tolerable but you may struggle to adjust initially. 🤧
Three meals are provided per day and you cannot opt out of this service, nor the cost. Food intolerances are accommodated, but overall meals are hit and miss. There will be limited kitchen facilities (if any) in the room; I have a kettle and a coffee machine, and I do dishwashing in the bathroom basin.
Your room will resemble a studio flat and will most likely feature a desk, futon, large bed (or two), cupboards, shower and probably a separate bath.
You’ll receive calls every other day from both the local health department and the Australian Red Cross. This is to see how you’re coping, check whether you’ve developed any Covid-19 symptoms, and to ask for your consent to do testing.
I advise that you opt into testing (which occurs on the 4th and 10th day), as failure to do so will mean you stay an additional 10 days at your own expense. 💸
Knowing what to expect can take the edge off the experience, especially in the first days. But being prepared is even better. This is what made a big difference for me:
- Bring Vitamin D supplements ☀️
- Pack travel adapters for all your electronic devices from overseas or a power board, which would only require one
- Pack a HMDI cable or Chromecast to stream from your devices to the TV
- Bring cutlery, a bowl and plate. Hotels provide disposable cutlery and packaged food. So unless you want to cut steak with a plastic knife or pour cereal directly into your mouth, BYO
- If you don’t have an Australian SIM card, see if you can pick one up at the airport or order online
- Bring snacks and a bottle of alcohol. Hotels sell both at marked up prices, as you’d expect
- Pack resistance bands for easy weight training. They’re cheap, effective and are light to carry
- Bring 2-3 sets of activewear to tide you over in-between laundry service
- Join groups to see how others are managing quarantine. You can also keyword search threads: Australians in quarantine facilities, Hotel Quarantine Australia, and Mandatory 14 day Hotel Quarantine chat Group.
- Check out my story highlight “Quarantine” on Instagram for a blow-by-blow of what happened at The Westin Brisbane!
So now you’re “home sweet home” for the next 14 days. Before you throw your arms up in despair, try this:
- Arrange for a friend to deliver a care package. Reception accepts “reasonable” deliveries and will check it for contraband and excessive alcohol first. Aside from snacks, I requested air freshener, chewing gum and paracetamol
- Set a routine. Each day I set aside time for productive tasks like life admin and exercise, as well as “me time” and calls
- Make video calls fun by playing games online and host a trivia night or weekend brunch virtually
- Exercise regularly, especially if you find yourself confined to the bed or sofa all day. There’s plenty of no equipment/limited space exercises you can try via an app or on YouTube
- Walk around when answering calls to help stay active
- Treat yourself to food delivery from time to time. It’s tough trying not to be wasteful but, let’s be honest, quarantine meals don’t win Michelin stars
- Draw a bubble bath, sing in the shower, or paint your nails. Take this time to yourself while you have it. 🛀
What happens next
Discharge is like a cliff edge after such a challenging experience. Some choose to walk away and never look back, and that’s fine. Others continue the narrative. If you’re the latter, you can:
- Challenge paying the invoice. No doubt the costs of even getting this far have been crippling, and having to fork out for this biosecurity measure imposed on us by the government is such a slap in the face. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, you might as well try
- Share your story online and to reporters. Keeping the pressure on politicians and continuing to raise awareness locally and globally will help fellow Australians still struggling to come home
- Consider joining a class action.