New Zealand. Managed Isolation, Day 1

Sunday 01 August 2021 – Auckland.

Thursday 29 July, London Heathrow.

I left my home in New Zealand on 27 December 2011 to go and see the world, and today, nine and a half years later I leave home again, this time to go to New Zealand. This return has been a long time in the planning, Eleanor had to apply for a visa and then we had the challenge of booking a place in New Zealand’s managed isolation system before we could book our flights. Covid-19 has certainly made travelling more difficult, but here we are, sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport, supping the first pre-flight nerves reducing gin. Phew.

I am not sure what direction this post is going to take as I start writing, it will probably ramble all over the place, we will see. I doubt I will finish it before the plane takes off in two hours time.

Sunday 01 August 2021, Auckland.

Well, I guess that second paragraph was prophetic, maybe too much so, as I didn’t write anything further in the airport and only made some vague scribbles in my notebook as we flew. Oh well.

Today is day one of 14 in managed isolation in Auckland. We arrived in New Zealand yesterday, but that only officially counts as day zero. New Zealand’s very strict border policies mean that you have to spend 336 hours from the time you land at the airport in an isolation facility of the governments choosing. None of this ‘promising’ to stay at home stuff like they have in the UK. 336 hours is 14 days, they use hours to give people an exact time they can expect to leave. We landed at 11:02 on Saturday and will be released at 11:02 (ish) 14 days later. We are being picked up from the hotel by my son on 14 August, so 13 sleeps to go.

The flight over was OK. Long, as you would expect given New Zealand is on the other side of the world, but I have had longer journeys to and from. The plane was fuller than I expected but nowhere near what it is normally like and all three legs of the journey were reasonably comfortable.

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We had 110 minutes in Dubai airport, long enough for a coffee and the long walk between arrival and departure lounge. It was good to stretch our legs. Dubai is fully open and the difference between it and Heathrow was marked. Dubai was buzzing, there were lots of people, and I would guess 95% of them were wearing masks. Heathrow was pretty deserted, there were only five flights leaving on Thursday evening, which explains the lack of travellers, and the fact that lots of the retails outlets were closing at 7:30pm. I am guessing that only half the people waiting were wearing masks. Maybe the UK’s attitude to mask wearing and Covid in general is the problem and people just don’t want to risk coming here, or maybe I should say ‘going there’ as I am now on the other side of the world.

The plane stopped in Kuala Lumpur to refuel, though we were not allowed off the plane. Those going to Malaysia were allowed off, which provided a bit more room. Eleanor and I have a row of three seats each for the final and longest leg to Auckland. Though naturally the arm rests on my seats were broken and one of them didn’t fold up so I could not lie down. Oh well. I had books and music and watched some terrible films.

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New Zealand!

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It took ages to get through the six check points at Auckland airport; medical, customs, immigration; at least twice, and those who ask you about fruit. It was frustrating, but understandable. We were then shoved onto a bus and it was revealed we would be doing our two week isolation at Rydges Hotel in downtown Auckland. We had no idea where we would end up, but it was looking quite possible we could end up in Christchurch; which we would have been quite happy with. Rydges wasn’t even on the radar so it was a bit of a surprise.

We were on the fourth of five buses, each with only a handful of people on it, the idea being to keep social isolation as much as possible, and if one is infected then there are less close contacts, who have to isolate as well. The process of getting into the hotel was slow, thorough and organised, run by the air force and it showed. It was a relief to finally get into our room, though we had to wait a few hours for our bags, and that much wanted shower.

The room is OK, basic at best, and we were pretty disappointed in it to be fair; however the following day, after a good sleep and some good food, we are warming to it. We are never going to love it as we have seen photos of rooms in other hotels that look amazing, some even have Nespresso machines, balconies and baths. We have the bare minimum. Spartan is almost the word. 

We had the first of three Covid tests late on Saturday, day zero, the next is on day three and the final on day 12. There is a two day wait for results; hence the final test being on day 12. You are not allowed out of your room until the day zero results are in, and negative.  I is going to be a long two days wait I think, we are very looking forward to being outside after 48 hours in airports, planes, buses and the hotel room.

Sunday was spent in the room, dozing, reading, eating – there is a lot of food and so far it has been great. I managed to do a 30 minute walk in the room, back and forth over the 6 metre width. It was OK. We had read a lot about isolation and had a number of tips for making it better. I had packed washing line and clothes pegs and some stick on hooks, the hooks worked best. There is almost nowhere in the room to hang the washing line so I am experimenting with sticky hooks stuck to a window, hopefully the small load of washing won’t come crashing down in the night.  The hotel will do two loads of washing for us, one a week, so we will do the small stuff every couple of days; partly for something to do.

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We had arranged for my sister to drop off plates and bowls and cutlery to make eating more enjoyable, eating from cardboard take away bowls with wooden forks is not nice. Some hotels supply proper eating utensils, ours doesn’t, as I said it was basic…. 

Lunch day zero, sandwich, salad, cakes, fruit and water. We sent the roast beef sandwich back as we asked for vegetarian food, they sent another salad. We had a repeat of a meat meal on Sunday night so are now thinking they think there is only one pescatarian and not two.

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Breakfast day one. Healthy! Muesli in the bowls.

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The best feature of the room is the view out a huge window, we can see the harbour bridge which is great, sadly there are no windows that open, so no chance of any ‘fresh’ air. This was a major disappointment as we have had three days of aircon, and were looking forward to opening a window.

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There is nothing we can do about it, and I have moved on from the initial frustration. The main thing is we are here, and so many are still waiting to come over. I have talked to mum, my sister and my son which has been great, and we look forward to being able to see them soon.

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There ends day one in isolation, and this post, which didn’t go anywhere I thought it would when I started it on Thursday.

Hoping to get our test results early tomorrow so we can at least get out for a walk in the carpark….