Mixed Messages in MIQ

As a teenager I spent five years at boarding school, and now my usual life working from home is not very different from quarantine. Consequently, my two weeks in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) on return home from Australia should have been easy.

We all know COVID is serious. So it just felt bizarre when the police officer who met the plane in Auckland tried to be jokey as he kept us in suspense about where we would be going to for our MIQ: “Wait for it… drum roll… Christchurch!” And then we were processed with blue wrist bands, on to another plane, and finally drafted to two hotels in Christchurch. There was nervous laughter when the army officer who met us on the bus outside our hotel got a coughing fit in the middle of her health rules talk.

The soldier who took my bags up to my room politely called me Ma’am as he welcomed me to my room for my ‘two week holiday’. I was a ‘guest’, being welcomed home, but with plenty of rules which MUST be obeyed.

For the first few days I went down to get some fresh air at the allotted time, following the arrows this way (not that way).

I obediently followed all the rules.

The exercise area felt similar to a prison yard.

Miraculously, at one end there were a couple of patches of garden, and I thought it would be nice to sit down on the ground beside the flowers.

The CCTV must have picked up this rule breach, and a soldier came out to tell me I must keep walking around. It was too much like joining a group of animals pacing up and down in a zoo, so I decided to return to Cell No. 2203 and stay there.

Then I developed a cough from the air conditioning which meant that I was confined to the room anyway, with my view of the Antarctic Centre Car Park. Although it seems only smokers got a room with windows that could open or a balcony, I saw some nice skyscapes.

I did leave the room once more when a nurse offered to take me to a special, much smaller, exercise area under special escort. A soldier walked four metres ahead clearing the way, then the nurse two metres ahead in full Personal Protective Equipment, with me trailing at the end. Feeling less and less like a guest, this time I did not take any photos.

The food? It was fine (certainly in comparison with those five teenage years), and the hotel had no problem with dietary requirements. But there was just too much, so I cancelled the breakfasts and ordered my own supplies. To get enough for a free delivery from the supermarket I ordered two bottles of wine. This contravened MIQ rules – only one bottle of wine per person per day – so one of mine was confiscated at the front desk. I had to call up to ask for it the next day.

I sympathised recently when I heard about actor Robyn Malcolm in MIQ feeling like she was ‘in the naughty corner’ for lighting a candle, and having two bottles of wine delivered by a friend.

Every day we got a Wellbeing Newsletter with puzzles, encouraging statements, fitness challenges (largely incomprehensible to me – air squats? walking burpee kicks? lunge pulses?), etc. Unlike people in other news stories I did not get inspired to use the paper bags the meals came in to make amazing creations. Nevertheless, I thought I had better make an effort to celebrate our America’s Cup win, and made some ad hoc bunting out of a couple of spare face masks.

My cough did not really go away, and it was only an hour or so before I was due to leave on Day 14 that I was cleared for departure. This delay was evidently an oversight, but in any case I was packed and ready. And, as indicated on the packet of Pineapple Lumps given to us with the notice about final laundry orders, I felt ‘awesome’!

Thank you to the staff of Sudima Hotel Christchurch Airport, the New Zealand Police Ngā Pirihama o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Canterbury District Health Board, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

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