Managed Isolation: Our experience

It’s been about two weeks now since we’ve left managed isolation. Feels surreal to think that we were in our hotel room for two weeks and wearing masks whenever we left but it was our reality. I thought I’d share with you the experience we had and hopefully it answers any questions you might have!

Arriving at your hotel

We completed our managed isolation at the Grand Mercure Hotel in Auckland. When you reach the airport exit, you stand in a queue and there’s someone at the door who will take your name and passport number. They will then tell you which bus to get on and what hotel number you’re going to. They didn’t disclose the hotel but I’ve read on online groups that they would if you asked them. We didn’t because it looked like we were staying in the city and we were super chuffed so we didn’t mind where they placed us.

Once we got to the Grand Mercure, a representative from the Ministry of Health comes on board and tell you what happens next. They’ll then call your name group by group so you can disembark in a socially distanced manner. We were last to board so we were last to get off. The Aviation Security (AvSec) staff will get your bags out from the bus – maybe double check that they’ve got the right ones because our bus driver got confused as to which side was which because we had people going to Hotel One and Hotel Two on our bus.

You will then get checked in by hotel staff – they’ll ask how you’re feeling and take your passport details. They’ll then give you general hotel info like laundry, food times and where to go if you’re a smoker and then give you your room key. We arrived in the evening so they took our breakfast order for the morning. We were then seen by a nurse who took our temperature and went through a series of questions about our general health and if we are on medication and if so, do we have enough for the next 14 days. After the check up, you get given a snack pack and then you grab your bags and up to the room you go!

Our room

We had a pretty good room – it was comfortable enough for the both of us. We had a queen bed, a TV and desk and a bathroom. We also had a seating area by the window, which looked out on to Queen Street. The only thing I wish we had was a window that opened as I’m a sucker for fresh air but hey ho, the room was comfortable enough and we were super grateful and super happy.

There was a welcome pack from the hotel and from the Unite Against Covid-19 team with information on protocols, Helplines, where to find support and what to expect for the next 14 days. We also had a menu for the next two weeks.

Meals

We got fed three times a day – breakfast which is between 8am and 10am, lunch which is between 12pm and 2pm and dinner which is between 6pm and 8.30pm. We get a daily phone call where we place our lunch and dinner for the following day and then breakfast the day after.

One of our breakfasts!
One of our lunches!
One of our dinners!

When it’s food time, someone knocks on your door and leaves your food outside. I usually leave it for a couple of minutes before I go out and grab it so that it gives them time to get away from the door. When you’re done with your food, you leave your rubbish outside the door.

We aren’t on any diets or have dietary requirements so for us, the food was perfect. There was definitely vegetarian options and in some instances, vegan options. I’m pretty sure they would cater to your dietary requirements because when you check in, they ask you if you have any.

We got so used to someone knocking on our door for food that it was a shock to the system when we realise we wouldn’t have that luxury anymore! The portions were quite big as well – we ended up with a lot of leftover desserts, fruits and snacks by the end of our stay.

An example of the leftovers we had. By Day 14, this had basically quadrupled!

Health checks

Every morning, the nurse will knock on your door to take your temperature and ask how you’re feeling. If you’re showing about 37 degrees and over, they tend to get a bit worried. We found that sometimes if the temperature is high in our room or we’ve just come out from a hot shower, this affects our body temp so we’d either wait to have a shower or just have the temperature down (I personally preferred a cooler room anyways).

Getting things delivered

We were allowed to get groceries and packages delivered. We placed a small Countdown order on our second day to get some chocolate, chips, cup noodles, coffee and coconut milk sent to us. The delivery fee is a whopping $14 but we wanted to extra coffee. In the end, we realised we didn’t actually need to buy the snacks because of the excess we ended up. The hotel also gives you UHT milk but we prefer alternative milks.

I had two packages delivered to me: one was a charger from a seller on TradeMe and another was a laptop from Apple. I had no issues getting them delivered to the hotel – when they arrive, reception calls your room to let you know. To ensure you’re not getting any prohibited items, security will open the package to check what it is but they do it with you present.

Laundry

We received two complimentary laundry vouchers. You’ll have to pay if you want more laundry done. One voucher gives you 10 items of clothing to be washed. I don’t know how strict they were with the numbers – I accidentally threw in an extra pair of socks and they didn’t say anything about it. We had to drop our laundry off before 8.30am and then reception calls us later that day to let us know our laundry was ready to be collected.

Exercise

Some hotels have a dedicated outdoor area for people to do their daily walks around. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that luxury so we could book to go to the waterfront for a 40-minute walk. Because of its popularity, we’re only allowed to go for a walk every second day. We get taken on a bus to the Auckland waterfront where they’ve cordoned off an area for us walk around in.

On one of our iso walks
View from our managed walks. This pic should give you an idea of how the area is cordoned off.

We’re not allowed to run for health reasons but we are allowed to do brisk walks. Tom and I would walk laps around the area non-stop until we got told we have to head back.

The hotel was also offering video guided yoga sessions in the board room so you just book and slot and then turn up. You don’t need a yoga mat, they provide towels for you to use instead. We did two sessions and they were alright but you have to keep your mask on so it was a bit challenging because of all the breathing you need to do. It was good nonetheless!

Testing

Now comes the most important part. You get tested on days 3 and 12. The day before your test, they slide your declaration form to complete underneath your door and you need to complete it and bring it with you for your test. You don’t get allocated a time – Ministry of Health will call you when they’re ready to see you.

I don’t really know how to describe the test. The first time was the hardest – it was a very ‘interestingly uncomfortable’ experience. I didn’t realise a swab could go so far back in your nose! But I’m not gonna lie – your sinus does feel a lot clearer after. The second time is definitely a lot more comfortable.

You usually get your results the following day – you’ll get a text message notifying you if it’s negative. If it’s positive, I imagine you get a phone call.

Quick story time – so after the first test, I got a phone call from Ministry of Health saying there’s some mix up with my details and they need me to email a copy of my passport so I did that. The next day, an AvSec member of staff slid another form under the door and said I needed to do another test. Holy heck, I freaked out because all I could think of was “it’s positive!”. So the next day I did another test and asked what had happened with the first one and they said my name didn’t match so yeah. I waited patiently the next day and got the text to say I was clear. I lost so much sleep over it – the anxiety was proper overwhelming! To make matters worst, my anxiety peaked again when the Ministry of Health called me just to tell me my result was negative and not to worry. That phone call definitely made me worry at first!! So yeah I ended up having three tests in total.

We ended up getting our day 12 test done on day 11. Not sure why but it was fine.

Completing your 14-days

A common question people ask if when do you get to leave. So it’s basically 14-days from when your plane lands. Ours landed at 10.10pm on 17 July so we were due to leave isolation at 10.10pm on 31 July. We were given the option to leave at 8am the following day and we decided to go with it so we didn’t have to pay an extra day at the backpackers.

The day before you leave, the nurse will tell you what time you need to go down to see them. We had multiple phone calls from Ministry of Health asking us the same thing – what time we’re leaving and where we’re gonna go and what the check out process is.

On the day itself, we went down to see the nurse at 7.45am to do a final check-in and temperature check. After that’s done, we go down to reception to return our key. We then meet with an AvSec member of staff who signs us off and gives us a letter confirming we’ve completed our 14-days. When you get to the gates, you show your letter and passport to the guys at the door and then they let you through. Funnily, security said “good luck out there” to us and we all had a good ol’ laugh. I mean I guess we technically completed our time in prison.

So there you have it! A guide to our time in managed isolation in New Zealand! I hope you find it useful. If you have anymore questions, please ask and I’ll try my best to answer it. If you’ve been through managed isolation, I’d love to hear about your experience! Good luck 🙂

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