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'I've Started Talking To The Boat': My Quarantine Diary From Room 402

I was alerted to the fact I’d be required by the Australian government to isolate for 14 days in a hotel by the Bureau of Meteorology.

That's the name of my family’s group chat. My parents called to see how I’d go for a fortnight cooped up like that. I quipped that I’m depressed and unemployed. Like Usain Bolt with a sprint, I’d been preparing my body for this for a while.

When I landed in Sydney, I can’t say it was a feeling of excitement that came over me. It was more one of dread -- I was leaving a life that I loved and had built in London over the past two and a half years. I didn’t even get to hug my friends goodbye (I’m super needy, it’s a big deal). Between coronavirus and unemployment, it felt like my hand had been forced.

The feeling of dread continued after we had to wait roughly an hour to leave the plane and then underwent a health screening. Baggage and customs were as normal, except my weak little arms had to wheel three suitcases totalling 70 kilograms to the coaches. At least a policeman loaded them in.

That coach was my home for the next five hours. And it didn’t have a bathroom. And ooh boy, does your bladder just know when there isn’t a bathroom around. Originally taken to the InterContinental, we sat there for about an hour before we were told we were being taken to the Ibis. I can’t say I was overwhelmingly excited to be taken to a hotel named after a bin-chicken.

My quarantine breakfast. (Image: Supplied)

Plain-clothes policemen, uniformed officers and Australian Defence Force personnel were outside the hotel ushering us in, and in reception trying to corral us into the rooms. I was escorted by a hot policeman to the bathroom, only to realise after that my top was entirely see-through and I’d spilt toothpaste on it. Didn’t try to shoot my shot there, safe to say.

Before going to our rooms, hotel management gave us a little information packet which consisted of ‘NSW Health isolation guidance for recently returned cruise ship travellers’ as well as a letter from Hotel Management. Fun fact: I’m a Valued Guest!

Damien Linnane

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I asked management if they knew what happened to us at the other end, and they said they were just playing it hour-by-hour at this point. Our entire floor is on isolation, but there are other guests at the hotel... apparently. I can’t confirm anything as I’m not allowed out of room 402. On Day Two (technically Night Two), we were told there are 24-hour nurses and doctors in room 416. They call every day asking if we’re exhibiting any symptoms. They have assured me boredom is not a symptom.

The light in my bathroom is flickering, so every time I go to pee, it’s like a little rave -- brings a new meaning to the term bush doof. No one is allowed in the room to fix the light because... isolation! There’s a picture of a boat on the wall (my dreamboat) and I bet it's a few days until I start talking to him. A few more days after that and he'll start talking back.

My bathroom rave. (Image: Supplied)

I’ve been keeping busy by talking to friends, documenting this surreal journey on Instagram. I’ve even been reduced to exercising. What else is there to do? My parents were allowed to drop off a care package yesterday, full of fresh fruit, a puzzle, some magazines, toiletries. It was bittersweet, as I could see them from the window but couldn’t go down to hug them. I really am so needy.

I’m lucky they got there when they did, as all deliveries have now been banned. The girl in the room next to me kicked off when she heard that -- she’d just ordered $35 of gelato from Uber Eats. Thirty five dollars on gelato! Apparently it’s because of the risk of cross-contamination... fine, but previous quarantine guidance we’d been given said food delivery options may be used, but at our own expense.

[Update: We actually can order groceries and essentials from Woolies and Coles -- no Uber Eats or Deliveroo -- but they will be vetted by authorities. But then this morning there was a letter slipped under my door from the NSW State Emergency Operations Centre saying we can indeed have one take-away meal a day. Wires crossing everywhere!]

"Good morning, dreamboat." (Image: Supplied)

Everything’s been communicated by reception. I feel like I’m in a long-distance relationship with whoever’s manning it; I’ve become a bit dependent on them and their call. I feel like they’re doing their best in a very odd situation. They only took all my details (including my first name and date of birth) yesterday... definitely feeling like we’re the guinea pig group of this forced isolation. All government and authority information is coming to us through reception. And as reception says, the rules keep changing.

The worst rule that’s changed? They took away the $25 beverage allowance we were told we’d get throughout our stay. How am I meant to survive 14 days in isolation without free alcohol?