I was in Singapore when I learned of the 14-day hotel quarantine imposed by the Australian Government to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. I was visiting my family, and was scheduled to fly and land in Sydney on the very first day of the mandatory quarantine.
My first thought was to change my flight and arrive in Australia earlier and do the 14-day self-isolation before the new measures kicked in. However my family advised me to stick to my original flight as they believed it will be more safe and comfortable to do the hotel quarantine. In hindsight, self-isolation poses more problems. Not only might I endanger the health of those with whom I'm living with, I also won't be able to go out to buy groceries. With the hotel quarantine, at least I am cared for by the Government without the risk of infecting the people around me.
I flew into Sydney on 29th March Sunday morning. I had a cold, and upon arrival at the airport the health authorities performed a nose swab test on me. Because I exhibited some Coronavirus symptoms like coughing, I was separated from other travellers on the same flight, and taken to a hospital hotel.
HOTEL AND ROOM
I was taken to the Merchant Hotel in Summer Hill. This hotel is specially allocated to house travellers who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. We undergo our 14-day quarantine here while we wait for test results. All hotel, food and transport is free of charge, and paid for by the Government.
The room is more like a serviced apartment with a bedroom, kitchenette, living room and balcony. The decor is minimal and modern.
There is WIFI, and Netflix and Youtube access on the smart TV. I have a washing machine and dryer in my room, so I can do my laundry. We are expected to clean our own dishes and room. Bins are cleared daily.
The hospital hotel is staffed 24/7 by Registered Nurses from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA). We get health checks twice daily. The nurses have access to our rooms using a master key (we don't have a key). We have to wear a face mask each time a nurse comes in to check on us. Everyone is very nice and friendly.
To learn about how I fought boredom in quarantine, read this.
All food is pre-packed and left outside our door to minimise physical contact with the staff. I get cereal, milk and juice for breakfast, and a choice of frozen meals for lunch and dinner. They are typically 1 meat + 3 veg, with a gluten-free and vegetarian option.
Personally, I enjoy the food as it is similar to what I normally cook for myself at home. The meals probably resemble food served at hospitals, and has been approved by NSW Health authorities. The food might not be to everyone's taste, but at least it is nutritious. Some of the vegetables lack seasoning, but that is easily fixed with salt and pepper.
On my 4th day of quarantine, the meals changed and we were offered butter chicken or fish fillet for lunch. I also received a Tim Tam and Laughing Cow cheese. It is a nice change to what we normally get, and I really look forward to these treats.
I am lucky to have a balcony in my room, and always eat my meals on it. It gives me fresh air, and makes me feel less cooped up inside.
There is a vending machine near reception. We can buy snacks using ApplePay or pass coins to staff to purchase on our behalf (since we are not allowed to touch shared area surfaces). We are allowed to order Uber Eats / Deliveroo, but this is at our own cost. Outside meals will be delivered to front entrance, and a nurse will bring the delivery to our room.
We are allowed walks in the courtyard if we ask a nurse for permission. This shared space is gated with no access to the public. While using the shared space, we need to maintain at least 1.5m from the nearest person. All surfaces are cleaned and disinfected daily by staff to prevent contamination.
I'm still waiting for my test results. It generally takes a day to get one's result; however due to the high demand for testing, there has been a backlog and delay in getting results. Some travellers in the hotel have tested positive for Coronavirus. Those who have tested positive will be moved to a different floor to minimise contact and prevent further spread of the virus.
As with the start of any major Government operation, some hiccups will occur. On the first day, the fire alarm went off. We had to evacuate the building and wait outside the hospital hotel with our face masks on. It turned out to be a false alarm, and luckily the streets were empty so we didn't come in contact with the general public.
Some of our luggages took a long time to reach us at the hotel, not just mine but other passengers on the morning flights as well. I arrived at the hotel at 9am in the morning, but my luggage took 12 hours to get to me. Luckily I was able to ask my aunt to drop off a change of clothes and some necessities at reception.
I think the quarantine experience depends on the individual. I am staying by myself in a spacious apartment, with no kids nor do I require special needs. Being a jewellery designer and small business owner, I am used to working from home, so this feels like an extension of my daily life. Barring some teething problems which is common for any government operation, my quarantine experience has so far been very positive. The staff here have gone above and beyond to make my stay enjoyable in light of the circumstances we are in. Considering that it is a quarantine stay, I am grateful to be housed in a nice hotel with food, WIFI and medical staff on hand in case of any emergencies. In light of how quickly COVID-19 spread within the country, I feel that the Government and health authorities have risen to the job admirably.
*Updated: My COVID-19 test came out negative! I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy. Please be kind and compassionate to yourself throughout this difficult time, we will prevail!
If you have questions with regards to the hotel quarantine, comment below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
Check out the Hotel Quarantine highlight on Instagram Stories for more photos and video of my stay.
For more details of my Hotel Quarantine, listen to the interview with Manoj Speaks below.