New Zealand Managed Isolation

Shall we talk Managed Isolation? Everyone seems fascinated by this system which we are so lucky to be a part of at the moment. In short, New Zealand currently has closed borders. If you meet the criteria to come in (this changes every so often, so I won’t detail the full list – but essentially NZ Citizens, diplomats and some residence visa types) then it is compulsory that you go into Managed Isolation – a 14 day quarantine in a hotel organised by the New Zealand Government & Armed Forces.

There are 32 hotels across Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch. Some are standard Managed Isolation where you have a bit more freedom & others are specific quarantine hotels for those who have either tested positive or shown symptoms. You don’t get any choice in hotel nor do you find out in advance where you are going to be sent. Once you land either someone comes onto the plane and tells you, or in our case we lined up at the exit to the airport and found out as we were walking out the door and getting on the bus.

On one hand not knowing where you are going is not a big deal – you are inside for two weeks so location is not a huge factor. But after travelling for three days I can absolutely tell you that I had everything crossed for an Auckland hotel (30 min bus from the airport) instead of a 3 hour bus to Rotorua or another flight to Wellington or Christchurch.

We also have family support in Auckland, my parents have so far dropped off two packages to the hotel with everything from chocolate brownie, a French press (with fresh beans), craft supplies & a full roast chicken…with stuffing. New Zealand is not a country that has discovered next day delivery (and the closest Amazon is Australia), so family close to the hotel is not only useful but is warming my heart to an unbelievable degree.

I actually can’t labour this point enough. After getting married without family, moving homes without family & everything in between alone…being able to demand cheese and crackers from obliging parents is beautiful.

Back to location, the other reason people struggle with not knowing where they will be placed for MI is because of trying to book travel to their final destination. Travel back to your arrival airport is included in Managed Isolation, but if you really want to be in Wellington for example this leaves you with booking last minute post-MI flights at considerable expense (currently international flights are only going to Auckland or Christchurch).

All the hotels are different as well, the experience at some hotels may suit you better depending on what you care about:

  • Some hotels (normally the ones outside the central city) have unlimited outdoor time and nice places to walk or work out. The central city hotels have ‘supervised’ outdoor time in a grotty carpark that you need to book in advance and has limited times available.
  • Some hotels have better food, with real cutlery and plates and a options for what you want, others have budget food and the dreaded wooden cutlery for every meal
  • Some hotels allow takeaway delivery
  • Some hotels allow drop offs from friends/family (at some hotels they allow drop offs but not home cooked food)
  • Some hotels allow family and friends to come and wave at you from outside the gate
  • Some hotels are 5 star, some are 4 star
  • Some hotels don’t allow alcohol at all (the quarantine ones as far as I know), the rest you can buy alcohol from the hotel (you are not allowed to bring it into any of the hotels or order it from outside) but the options available vary greatly

For us, we have a view of the Sky Tower, drop offs are allowed from family & we have a choice with the food we are given – so we are very happy with what we ended up with. And I feel so grateful to be on NZ soil that I could literally be anywhere for MI and be ok with it.

Another aspect to people being so upset by the mystery of their MI destination is that humans are not conditioned to deal well with uncertainty & long haul travel at the moment is complicated (I may blog about that in a sec). So having this added bit of uncertainty at the end of the tunnel of not knowing where you will stay has the ability to do weird things to your brain. 

In terms of other things to do with MI, we get a visit from the nurse every day to check our temperature and ask if we have any symptoms. And we have to do a corona test on day 3 and day 12 (day 3 is because most tests would register infection 5 days after exposure, and they account for people having travelled for 2 days…lol NZ is fucking far away!).

In terms of payment, the cost of MI is $3,100 for the first (or only) person in the room and $950 for the second person. There are circumstances where this fee is waived, which thankfully we fit the criteria – so we are paying nothing for this two week, all meals, medical care taken care of stay. Well…we have paid $200 for alcohol so far, but needs must. The fee waiver that applies to us are:

  1. I am an NZ citizen (and my husband is in the room with me)
  2. We are staying for more than 90 days
  3. We left NZ before the MI regulations came into effect (11th August 2020)

There is a whole lot on the Facebook groups about how to ‘survive’ two weeks of MI, but after this year we are experts at just mooching and getting through the day inside. But I am also in awe of people who do this with kids, you are absolutely the MVPs to be locked in a room with energetic kids and limited alcohol for 2 weeks. Or people who one or both of a couple are trying to work while in MI, being locked in a room with someone on conference calls all day would make me very twitchy.

For us the main source of sanity has been computer games and crafts. Seriously, crafts are just amazing. So far I have spent about 5 hours a day sewing felt Christmas decorations for everyone in the family. A good use of time, and it 100% helped turn my mental state around from what you read in my last post.

The biggest thing that has been getting to us so far is the food. Yes I know I said we were at a hotel with good food and some choices BUT the quality is the equivalent of a buffet lunch at a work conference on the subject of tax law. It was fine for the first three days, but after that it started to feel monotonous, lukewarm and lacking in fresh and favour. And yes I fully get how bratty that sounds, and yes I am beyond privileged to be getting three meals a day delivered in a country free of corona…but I have been in the same room for 10 days so let me have one gripe ok?

We get out in two days, and honestly can’t picture what life will be like. After 9 months with Corona being at the forefront of the mind we are paranoid that we will somehow (even after 2 corona tests and two weeks of quarantine) get our family sick, but the nurse has assured us that it is a very very very low risk.

The plan for next week is all those totally ordinary things that are so foreign to us right now; getting a Christmas tree, babysitting, hugs and wrapping presents. How strange, what life can be.

Author: runawaykiwi

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