As lockdown lifted for New Zealand, I was confined to a 22 square metre hotel room for two weeks in Auckland.
I’m one of thousands of Kiwis returning home from overseas who are being put up in Government-funded accommodation to try to stop new cases of Covid-19 arriving.
It’s much harder than being in managed isolation at home in Sydney, given I can’t open any windows and have a view of a carpark. I'm not surprised that some people have tried to escape, especially given the somewhat draconian approach being taken.
Police and private security guards patrol the hotel grounds 24 hours a day, making it feel like a flash prison. While most staff are friendly enough, it’s clearly a tense time with one or two treating guests like they’ve done something wrong.
"Detainees'" names and room numbers are taken every time they want to enjoy some fresh air in the fenced-off airport carpark. There’s a mix of smokers, children and health nuts trying to fill their days. All shared spaces like the hotel gym and restaurants have been closed for obvious reasons.
Daily 45-minute walks are offered to groups of 12, but if they’re booked up then you miss out - like I did on day one.
Alcohol is limited to four bottles of beer and 750ml of wine for each room a day. There’s no chance of bringing anything in from the outside as all bags are searched on arrival.
One man told me he’d been knocking on doors of other guests asking if he could have their quota.
The hotel provides three meals a day, and we’re given two options to choose from. Eggs for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a chicken curry for dinner is a standard day. Most meals come with a piece of cake and some fruit. A lot of people have resorted to ordering Uber eats.
Guests are required to get a daily health check with nurses on site, and I’ve been asked about my mental health every time. It’s fine. I'm now pacing around my 22-square-metre like a long-held Sumatran Tiger, but it's fine.
I’ve been fortunate to have friends gift food, home baking, books and exercise equipment. The boss has also dropped off a work computer to keep me busy. I was pretty sure I said "PS4 please", but hey.
I have eight days to go until I’m out of managed isolation and on another plane home to my family.