Power walking in socially distanced circles. Picture: Jennifer Lane
Power walking in socially distanced circles. Picture: Jennifer Lane

Traveller's hilarious quarantine diary

When I discovered I'd be spending two weeks in managed isolation in New Zealand after a trip to Australia, I decided to embrace the enforced solitude. When else would I get the opportunity to spend 14 days swanning around in a fluffy, white bathrobe without doing anything remotely resembling housework? Oh, or the chance to stick to a strict writing schedule…

Day 0 - on which I inadvertently break two rules

I arrive by bus, along with my potentially COVID-positive fellow travellers, after being masked, sanitised, and divided into 'family', 'couple' and 'single' bubbles.

Our hotel is concealed by a metal fence, wrapped in black plastic. Inside, important people - police, security, soldiers, nurses - are busy doing important things. I'm relieved when, instead of handcuffs, I'm shackled with a plastic wristband reminiscent of long-ago Big Day Outs.

My shackle, which makes me feel like I'm at a music festival, albeit without any friends. Or music.
My shackle, which makes me feel like I'm at a music festival, albeit without any friends. Or music.

A search of my room fails to uncover a fluffy, white bathrobe (or a bathrobe of any other description), but I remain calm. Trackies will do.

I hear a knock. Dinner! Roast chicken appears, by magic, in a brown paper bag, with The Wellbeing Times. I learn that a Wellbeing Team is available 24/7, and look forward to free counselling. I've a lot to get off my chest.

After placing my dishes outside my door, I settle into bed to familiarise myself with isolation protocol. I read: Do not place your dishes outside your door, and leap up, open door, remember rule re not opening door without mask, slam door, grab mask, open door, retrieve dishes.

I spot a bucket containing dishwashing liquid and tea towels. I rinse dishes, but commit to eating future meals from their cardboard containers.

Day 1 - on which I walk in circles

I convert a table into my workstation, manoeuvring my laptop to spare my workmates a glimpse of an unmade bed during Zoom calls. I punctuate my day with room sprints and PE with Joe workouts (ensuring laptop camera is off).

A knock: my first health-check. I soon learn to distinguish a health-check knock (persistent) from a meal delivery knock (gentle). Behind my mask, I glow with pride as I confirm I have no COVID symptoms and am told my temperature is 'perfect'. I'm a model iso-inmate.

I sign in at the outdoor exercise area. I want to run, but with 30+ others strolling in the same direction, two metres apart, I settle for power-walking. Besides, I'd feel self-conscious running with the army watching through the window. I don't need the pressure of achieving a PB.

COVID symptoms: 0

Day 2 - on which I press snooze for two hours

My schedule has not factored in me discovering Succession on the plane from Sydney, and then finding the remaining 17 episodes on Neon TV. I also have sore PE with Joe muscles, and pressing snooze requires less effort than placing two feet on the floor.

I request a clean tea towel so Reception thinks I'm washing my dishes.

COVID symptoms: 0

Day 3 - on which something disturbingly longer than my nose is stuck up my nose

Today's knock is more urgent than a health-check knock. My first COVID test! A friend had likened its discomfort to an ear piercing. I brace myself as a gloved hand approaches my nose. I remember piercing my own ears as a teenager, and prepare to faint. I'm pleasantly surprised when I don't.

I jump when my hotel phone rings. It's Sam* from the Wellbeing Team, asking me how I am. He sounds too friendly to burden with 48 years' of hardship, so I say I'm fine.

COVID symptoms: 0

Day 4 - on which a call from the Wellbeing Team doesn't improve my wellbeing

Anna's* on the phone. She sounds equally as kind as Sam, so again I feel unable to offload a lifetime of angst. A discussion of my Departure Plan reveals I won't be released in time for my scheduled flight home. Fortunately, I can share this problem. Cue to call travel agent.

I fashion a hair-tie out of mask elastic - my hair-do until my next Zoom call.

COVID symptoms: 0

Day 5 - on which my wellbeing is restored

Travel agent arranges another flight! I celebrate by ignoring my schedule and turning on the TV. Just one episode. Two at most.

In the exercise area, the army loses a battle with the wind's determination to free our fence of its black plastic coat. I get a glimpse of the outside world.

COVID symptoms: 0

Days 6-13

see Days 1-5

Day 14 - on which my Departure Plan is successfully executed

After blitzing my final health-check, I'm escorted by a soldier to the 'clean zone', where I get the all-clear, remove my mask, and am released into the community (with my wellbeing intact).

COVID symptoms: Slight tickle in my throat (kidding).

*Names have been changed.

Originally published as Traveller's hilarious quarantine diary