Australian hotel quarantine has been a red-hot topic over the past 12 months, as everyone from celebrities to your everyday Joe coming into Australia from abroad is forced to spend two weeks confined to a hotel room to curb the spread of coronavirus.
With Australia currently in an enviable place in our fight against the virus it’s no secret that overall the quarantine system is doing its job, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park for those returning or arriving from overseas.
Though the professionals enlisted to make the system work with, hopefully, few hiccups must remain tight-lipped on procedures, those cooped up in their rooms have been more than happy to share their experiences on social media in sometimes jaw-dropping detail.
From how often you can get your clothes washed, to whether or not you’re allowed to get plastered in quarantine, here are some of the secret struggles from behind the guarded doors of hotel quarantine in Australia.
All disposable, all the time
Though it makes perfect sense, many are surprised to learn that it seems almost no one in quarantine has any access to plates or cutlery.
Obviously reducing the risk of contamination, all food comes in disposable packaging, with disposable cutlery and napkins. Water is in a bottle, and it seems in NSW the only hardware are mugs for your tea and coffee.
As Irish blogger FiFi of FiFi’s Food Blog Dublin who underwent the 14 days back in October assured everyone, however, there is as much tea and coffee as you like… though you don’t get to choose the brand.
One blogger even advised others to pack their own plates if they wanted to make their own food, or simply enjoy a sturdy dish.
It seems at least in Tasmania, those in hotel lockdown are given slightly more freedom, with the luxury of a plate and cutlery for at least one Tassie blogger.
Different hotels, different rules
Across the board, it seems that what you can and can’t do might depend a lot of the hotel you pick out.
Australian actress Natasha has spent the past ten years in LA and is completing her second round of hotel quarantine in a year, after come home earlier in the pandemic only to return to the States to tie up loose ends.
The 37-year-old has a unique perspective into how mammoth those differences can be, both depending on the hotel and when you complete your quarantine.
She completed her first two-week isolation at the beginning of 2020 at the Intercontinental in Sydney, when things were far stricter for those in isolation.
“The Intercontinental at the time was not allowing any drop-offs, this was in April 2020,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Any alcohol had to be bought through the hotel system. No UberEats, no friends dropping off packages.”
Now, eight days into her second time in quarantine, she says was she prepared but is allowed to have deliveries this time around – a game-changer.
She also says the luck of the draw determines if you get a balcony or windows that open, something she’s missed out on both times.
“There was a small amount of, I don’t want to say panic, but initially I really had to meditate on the fact that I was [once again] not going to be able to breathe in any fresh air,” she admits of discovering her hotel room the second time around has no opening windows or balcony.
“There were a few seconds where I got quite perturbed.”
Hot food, hard to find
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that hotel quarantine food must always be in want of a zap in the microwave… but you won’t have one handy.
Bloggers across Instagram and TikTok all agree that no matter what food you’re waiting on, the government provided stuff or an UberEats delivery, once you get your mitts on it it’s bound to be lukewarm.
Due to the demands of servicing hundreds of those in quarantine who can’t so much as set foot outside their rooms, it seems prompt food delivery is an almost impossible feat, with delivery services forced to leave food at the desk to be delivered when a worker has time.
Crumbs ahoy! No cleaning for the quarantined
Two weeks in one room with your day centred around the arrival of your meals? You’re probably thinking you’d be hoeing into your food with abandon once it shows up, however it seems hotel quarantine makes a clean freak of us all.
The entire fourteen days your room won’t get a vacuum unless you’re one of the lucky ones whose hotel will provide you with one.
Though some quarantiners in Queensland, like TikToker Asha, were able to get their mitts on a dustbuster, in NSW and Victoria almost every social media user and one inside source told Yahoo Lifestyle there wasn’t a sucker in site for their carpet the whole 14 days.
That means almost everyone is extra careful about what they spill and where, as getting anything cleaned is almost impossible.
Those in quarantine are informed they can contact the front desk for cleaning supplies if they need them, though it seems what will be provided varies from hotel to hotel.
Most people online agree that must-haves during your stay are detergent for rinsing any mugs you may be using, wipes for spillage and even some laundry powder if you don’t want to fork out for the laundry service made available at some, and certainly not all, hotels.
The word ‘hotel’ might have you conjuring images of crisp sheets and the ability to be as messy as you like, but hotel quarantine it seems is the opposite.
In NSW you are given fresh linen to change your sheets at seven days in, in WA it seems fresh linen and laundry services may be provided but could be at the quarantiner’s own cost.
Natasha tells Yahoo that laundry service is available but at the Four Points Sheraton where she’s currently seeing out her second hotel quarantine, it will set you back $35 for a maximum of ten items of clothing, so she like many just does it herself in the bathroom.
In South Australia travellers have it slightly better with fresh linen and towels every three to five days, and in Queensland blogger Asha, of Ashat.Honey, reports laundry service is available.
You might think fourteen days of hotel quarantine would be a non-stop hotel party, but there are rules in place for that, depending on where you are.
In NSW you are permitted to order or have alcohol permitted, though most hotels seem to restrict the purchasing to beer and wine or mixers, no spirits. You also can’t go hell for leather on your booze – the delivery stays with hotel staff who then distribute it to comply with alcohol-service regulations.
In NSW current Aussie in quarantine Natasha confirms that the NSW welcome pack specifies that even if you have more delivered, only one bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer may be given to each person each day.
In WA, you may not have alcohol delivered from outside and can only order from the hotel itself, which may charge higher rates, as per a WA fact sheet given to Hotel Quarantiners.
"No alcohol is permitted to be delivered from outside the hotel,” the document reads.
“Alcohol may be purchased at your expense from the hotel."
In South Australia official documents don’t mention booze restrictions – it appears to fall to each hotel’s discretion
For smokers, compounding an already challenging 14 days is a smoking ban under hotel quarantine in most states. In NSW, NSW Health has banned all smoking of cigarettes and e-cigarettes in hotel quarantine, as have the WA government, whether you have a balcony or not. In other states, it seems some hotels might allow you to smoke if you have a balcony, though it seems very rare.
Smokers are given access to medical support and nicotine replacement products to help them through the stay.
In Tasmania however, it seems at least some sites provide outdoor smoking areas which non-smokers can also enjoy.
Tasmania seems to be something of a promised land for hotel quarantiners in fact, with other videos showing at least one Tassie hotel providing exercise spots outside of the room, in car parks or outdoor spots.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a princess, in hotel quarantine you at least get the security detail you always wanted!. Each room has a police officer or army personnel stationed in the hall to prevent quarantiners from leaving their rooms.
Some who have done the 14 days report getting so desperate to see another human they would run to the door to try and catch a glimpse of their deliverer, but wouldn’t be able to step out as it would violate the strict public health order.
Of course, we’re forcing people to quarantine to keep the public health under control, but it seems governments are taking the mental health risk seriously as well.
Each day those in quarantine receive a call from a nurse to check for any coronavirus symptoms and to discuss their mood and general mental health, which it seems can become shaky for many stuck in self-isolation.
The biggest recommendation from everyone seems to be to keep moving in your tiny room, whether you do as blogger FiFi did and run 5kms up and down your room, each day, get your hands on an exercise bike like Syd did, or follow WA Health’s advice of marching on the spot (seriously).
When it comes to how much you fork out for hotel quarantine it seems not all states are created equal.
It’s cheaper to quarantine in WA where you’ll pay $2520 for a single or $3360 for two, and children under six go free.
In Victoria and NSW its $3000 for one adult, $4000 for two and $500 per child over three.
And of course, the quarantine comes with the added bonus of keeping the rest of the country safe and the virus under control.
It seems almost everyone who documents their funny, challenging and often difficult time in lockdown comes out the other end aware of how important their small sacrifice was.
And walking out guaranteed to be covid free after three tests and negative results may just be a priceless outcome for all.
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