Quarantine a la Australia

Escorted by the police and the first of four buses, we arrived at the centrally located Pullman medi-hotel in Hindmarsh Square in Adelaide CBD. Here too we were met by doctors, military personnel, hotel staff, curious hotel guests who looked down on us from their balconies and the hotel’s managing director Llewellyn Wyeth. He personally came onto the bus to tell us exactly how the process of ‘touchless check-in’ would go. Also that the start of our 14-day quarantine started the next day, so we started the quarantine with day 0.

We were welcomed like friendly zombies and just like boarding, leaving the bus was also organized in watertight stages. After receiving a thick envelope with government- and house rules, contact details of the mental health support line in case of mental breakdown and a few flyers for possible food and coffee delivery, we received a final warning before entering the elevator. Two agents made very clear

There is advanced CCTV everywhere and if you go outside your hotel room without a valid reason, it will cost you 1000 AU Dollars on the spot.

Definitely, a good reason not to leave the room.

The unreal feeling of being in some kind of zombie movie took shape. This intensified when, on exiting the elevator, we were guided through a dimly lit hallway and a red alarm light went on and off every second. Next to it was a sign that read ‘ORANGE ZONE’ with some unclear instructions. The only thing missing were armed soldiers in front of our door.

Routine

To keep the mind healthy, I started the quarantine with a kind of self-made occupational therapy. A daily HITT workout delivered by Youtuber BullyJuice, a US Airforce airman, who describes his Youtube videos as motivating and pushing people to be better than they were before they woke up in the morning. And indeed. In 40 minutes I was drilled in jumping jacks, bunny hops, pike presses and supermans. Around noon I took my first meal according to the 16/8 interval fasting schedule that I followed.

In between activities (sports, reading, writing, browsing car sites, watching TV) I did my daily inspection with the pocket binoculars from our balcony, to get a glimpse of the people and everyday situations. Spying on the office cubicles of KPMG or observing a group of Ibus birds, which had found a good foraging spot in the park in front of our hotel. I would like to define exciting differently, until one day a speeding motorcycle in jeans came racing by and suddenly caused an accident with an oncoming truck in the middle of the square. I saw the situation develop before my eyes. At the supreme moment, I shouted something, formulated something unintelligible to my wife and seconds later I was on the line with the concierge, who I then explained impatiently through my skyrocketing adrenaline that an ambulance had to come quickly.

After the phone call, I made a brief summary of the situation and after a few hours had passed, I emailed the message to the front desk in case they forgot my offer to act as a witness.

The motorcyclist came from Pirie St. towards the Pullman Hotel. At the end of the street, the motorcyclist wanted to turn left on Grenfell St. to the west. At this point, the small truck (A) was driving from the east on the central lane of Grenfell St.

The motorcyclist turned on the left lane of Grenfell St., accelerated and overtook the small truck (A) on the left side at the traffic light at about 40 to 60 kilometres per hour.

At this point, the other small truck (B) was on the opposite track in the middle of the intersection, turning south at Pulteney St. At this moment the motorcyclist was driving full into the oncoming truck (B)

At the end of the day, the police actually called to say thank you. I hope the motorcyclist has had a good time. The overtaking manoeuvre must have cost him quite some money, because he drove straight on at the intersection, where, given his lane, he was only allowed to turn left. A small detail is that the Australians overtake from the right side – a good reminder for him and for me.

 Food

The highlight of the day was the food delivered to the door. Almost like room service, except they didn’t wheel it into the room on a trolley and the food was kept warm under a silver dome and the waiter, as he took the dome off, Ta-Da! called out. The brown paper bags, of which we had received 45 in total, contained a collection of aluminium dishes, lids made from a hybrid material of aluminium and cardboard, plastic containers, sauce cups, drinking straws and paper bags. This was certainly not the highlight. Fortunately, we came up with the progressive idea to save some of the containers for our road trip. Incidentally, in South Australia, a law would come into effect from 1 March that would ban single-use plastics. This ban would be Australia’s first of its kind, banning the sale, supply or distribution of single-use plastic items!

Breakfast, lunch, dinner from different corners of the world was put right in front of our door. For example, for breakfast a feta and spinach omelette, chicken chipolata, cabbage leaves, with tomato and cheese. A Thai noodle salad with bell pepper, coriander and pad thai sauce for dinner and pavlova passion fruit coulis for dessert. The dishes were supplemented with chips, orange juice or liquid breakfast (a bit strange and not tasty), the occasional limp croissant, somewhat dry cakes, aeroplane rolls, soggy muffins, chocolate and little fruit. You understand that the workout and interval fasting was no unnecessary luxury.

Checkups

Every day we were called by a nurse, who checked how we were feeling and if a mental breakdown was imminent. The police also called every 24 hours to inquire about our personal data and to reassure themselves that we were still neatly in the room. Like we had it in our heads to escape – 24/7 surveillance with police cars right outside, CCTV and all our data in their hands. Leaving the hotel was more like an attempt to escape from a heavily guarded facility. Officers were usually short, but sometimes you could have a longer conversation with the nurse.

The first of three corona tests, as a mandatory part of the quarantine, were carried out by two nurses at our doorway. The long cotton swab disappeared first in the mouth and then in the nose, where it seemed to me that either the swab was too big or my nostril was a bit small. Not a pleasant feeling in any case, although this form of testing was considered the “gold standard”. The first test result strengthened my determination to make this quarantine a true success.

Your SA Pathology Test Results for COVID-19

Hi VASCO, your COVID-19 test on 27-Feb-2021 is NEGATIVE.

You need to continue to stay isolated if you:

– are still sick, or are in close contact with a person with COVID-19.

– have been advised to stay isolated irrespective of the test result by a doctor, public health authority or SA Police.

Further information is available on the SA Health COVID-19 Website. etc. etc.

One of the sisters I spoke with for a long time was Elisabeth from Italy. She worked for the SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line and had a soothing, almost motherly voice. She wanted to know if we were in the past four weeks; tired, nervous, hopeless, restless, or felt depressed.

Fortunately, all questions were answered with no, except for the first question where I gave a dubious yes. Of course, you can sometimes feel tired. Maybe it was my European winter clock or had it to do with the many squats, to avoid couch-potato symptoms?

I was curious if she knew more about assigning hotel rooms to quarantine guests and especially rooms with balconies. More than 211,000 people had returned to Australia as of March 2020, all of whom had to stay in a medi-hotel. Some accommodations (in Sydney, for example) charged a premium for rooms with balconies, with people paying up to 1400 AU Dollars extra. Wow, and this is for access to fresh air! We also know friends who flew into Sydney and were assigned a room without a balcony or even a window that could open. We were lucky.

Final sprint

On the 10th day, we received a letter shoved under the door with the happy news that we were almost allowed to leave. And on March 13, Peter from the concierge was waiting in front of our door with a luggage trolley. For 14 days we had been able to enjoy the late summer weather (20 to 25 degrees) from our balcony and that day it came pouring down from the sky. At the checkout, we were handed the well-deserved Certificate of Quarantine Completion with test data and three NEGATIVE mentions. A quick final check with the police officer and it seemed the past two weeks had been peaceful and thank goodness no one had escaped.

Amandeep, the friendly taxi driver from India, has been happily living in Adelaide with his wife for 10 years. Questions such as where we come from and what we are planning were discussed. He gave us a few tips for buying a used car. “Don’t go to a dealer because they will charge you more. If they fix something on the car, they only fix it for three months. After the three months, the warranty expires and you can hardly reach them for help”. He recommended visiting PICKLES (Australia’s Leading Car Auctioneer), where hundreds of cars are auctioned without knowing their condition. Really something for us.. but definitely well-intentioned.

The apartment was in Holdfast Bay, the South West Coast area of Adelaide. Finally time for some sun, sea and sand. Arriving at the location, the rain had indeed stopped.

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