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What it’s really like to experience Australia’s two-week hotel quarantine

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Andrei Harmsworth visits his mum in Perth Australia for feature on Quarantine in Metro newspaper

Andrei has turned to crisps to ease the boredom of quarantine

I really love my mum. She lives all alone in the most isolated city in the world, Perth, Western Australia – a Covid-free utopia where the sun still shines and turquoise waves just keep rolling in.

There are no cases or community transmission there. That’s because they’ve slammed the doors shut indefinitely – including on their own citizens. You can only travel back to Perth if you have an exemption or on compassionate grounds.

As a result, I haven’t seen my mum for a year, while she hasn’t seen her grandkids for a year and a half and counting. People from Perth are not allowed to leave – airline Qantas has simply given up internationally and Australia has essentially declared no travel until 2022.

There are three hurdles I must leap in order to see my mum again: the entry pass, the flight and the quarantine. When my pass comes through, seven months of tension and uncertainty drain from my body like water down a greedy plughole.

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Next up is the flight. With no Qantas, Australians are now at the whim of international carriers. Oz has a very low cap on the number of citizens who can return each week, which means flights are half empty.

Andrei Harmsworth visits his mum in Perth Australia for feature on Quarantine in Metro newspaper

Thanks to Covid, Andrei could fly to Perth on his very own private jet… sort of

To pay for that you are looking at prices of up to £6,000. But I win the lottery again when I stumble on a rare last-minute Singapore Airlines seat for £2,000. It’s leaving in 48 hours. I practically rush out of the door.

Seeing Heathrow decimated makes the reality of our new world hit home. No announcements, no crowds, no late people sprinting. Temperature checked, I’m taken to my premium economy seat to find I’m the only one in the cabin.

All the masked crew know my name. An empty plane feels like pure joy at first but hours spent alone in the dark, bouncing around in turbulence with no crew in sight, and one aborted landing later, I feel achingly alone. I’m actually missing other passengers.

Finally on the tarmac at Changi, I’m told to remain in my seat. A team of PPE-clad ground staff flood the plane. I am collected by one with a clipboard and taken to the gangway. We line up and a team of them march us through an old wing of Changi.

Full Length Of Man With Surfboard On Beach Against Sky

Andrei won’t be allowed to visit Perth’s beautiful beaches until his quarantine is finished (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm)

Temperature checked again, I am taken into a transit pen. It has water, loos, charge points and, crucially, a woman selling crisps. Forgetting to turn my roaming off I’m blissfully unaware that I’m £60 down before the shorter flight to Oz.

Out of the window I finally glimpse the crystal blue shores, red dirt and cotton-bud clouds I’ve craved throughout lockdown.

There are all kinds of police announcements when we land in Perth. I queue two metres apart from others to show my G2G pass, collect my bags already loaded off the carousel, then join another queue to find out what I’ve landed in the hotel quarantine lottery.

A Hyatt! I’ll take that. At a long table a policeman interviews me. Once he verifies me, he coos: ‘Once you’re out, mate, you can go down the pub – don’t have to worry ’bout anything, no Covid here.’

Hyatt Hotel Perth

There are worse places to spend two weeks in quarantine than the five star Hyatt Hotel

It’s a warm welcome before the final hurdle.

We sit in the luggage hall on chairs in rows two metres apart. The army come in and take us to buses. Next thing I know, I wake up with a jolt and we’re at the side door of a hotel. I hold up my credit card to be charged A$2,500 (£1,388) for my two-week sentence. There’s a river view or the block-of-flats view. Guess which one I have!

I am sent alone to a service lift to my room. I eyeball the guard, who will be sitting outside it 24 hours a day. Ah, a welcome letter! The gist is if I leave the room I go to jail for a year or face a $50,000 fine. Love you too! It’s the first taste of losing my freedom and the reality of quarantine hits home.

Food alleviates this anxiety – it never stops coming, arriving with a frantic knock every few hours and waking me up, but food left at my door becomes the highlight.

It’s really good. Lamb shanks to cannelloni to Thai green curry. Sides of fruit and salad, little snacks and a different dessert every time. Then it’s just you, your thoughts and the crisps.

Andrei Harmsworth visits his mum in Perth Australia for feature on Quarantine in Metro newspaper

The food in the quarantine hotel is surprisingly delicious

Your mind lurches hourly from waves of panic to blissful mindless resignation. ‘Am I going to die alone of an asthma attack in this air conditioning, with no open window?’

Then comes the realisation that I’m merely a simpleton who could lie in bed eating crisps and draining my battery on Instagram forever more.

So that you don’t start to accept those dark thoughts, a social worker calls you on day five to make sure you’re not plotting to end it all. She points out you’re pretty much royalty, as you have a 24-hour doctor on call.

On day two you get your Covid test from a duo in PPE. No news is good news. Time to implement my survival strategy, which is a different activity each day. I force myself to do my own 1,300-move prison workout each day.

I packed my TRX ropes for the bathroom door. I never normally read but I’ve brought a book. I’ve also brought my art stuff. There’s copious planking and I invent a ‘spa day’ to be freedom-ready, picturing myself stomping out like Paris Hilton from jail. I join a pal’s yoga class on FaceTime and we meditate.

pic shows Andrei's room at Hyatt Hotel, Perth. Andrei Harmsworth visits his mum in Perth Australia for feature on Quarantine in Metro newspaper

Could you handle spending 14 days in the same room?

My screen time is outrageous. Thank God for Biden versus Trump. And I still have your Guilty Pleasures to write, which means Little Mix are on the blower at 2am for a chat. Sometimes I find myself awake at 3am eating cheese triangles with a vacant stare.

Then finally, as the four walls feel like they’re closing in, it happens. There’s a call from my mum, who says: ‘I’m downstairs.’ I look outside and there she is in the car park, beaming at me and waving. So close… yet so far.

The year’s anxiety lifts from me like a spirit leaving. It’s real – I’m finally going to get the lockdown hug from my mum that has evaded me all year. And the most important part? She’s dropped off more crisps…

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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Credit: Original article published here.

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