Life in hotel quarantine

“I felt like a bunch of suits were in charge of my life and they couldn’t care less about my health or wellbeing.” The reality of life in hotel quarantine. (Image source: The Guardian)

By Lauren Thomas-Nehmy@LThomasNehmy

A fortnight in a five-star hotel might be a dream vacation for some but travellers forced into hotel quarantine say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

The Federal Government’s latest border control measures require all travellers arriving into Australia to be isolated in mandatory quarantine accommodation for 14 days.

The decision was made by the National Cabinet after health authorities warned people who had been overseas accounted for approximately two-thirds of Australia’s known coronavirus cases.

For travellers such as South Australian Phoebe Kempson, this meant being placed in mandatory isolation in a hotel interstate.

Phoebe was living in Banff, Canada when COVID-19 reached Australian shores and between limited departures and daily cancellations, she was hesitant to book a flight home.

Consequently, the border control measures beat her to it.

The new rules kicked in at 11.59pm on March 28 and Phoebe arrived into Melbourne Tullamarine airport on the morning of March 29.

She was immediately met by law enforcement officers and was escorted to the Crown Metropol hotel in the Melbourne CBD.

“I counted fifteen officers surrounding the hotel, many weren’t social distancing,” she said.

Phoebe was grateful to share her time in hotel quarantine with two friends she was travelling with.

The group were confined to their guarded room, the windows didn’t open and there was no balcony for fresh air.

Phoebe and her roommates read e-books, watched T.V, participated in online workouts and invented new games such as ‘kick the old juice bottle into the bin’.

“We just did anything to pass the time until our next meal,” Phoebe said.

The hotel provided three meals a day, using a doorbell to alert patrons of mealtimes.

“The hotel did really well on the food. It would be impossible to please everyone but most of the meals were nice, on time and they always provided snacks,” Phoebe said.

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Dinner in hotel quarantine. (Image source: Phoebe Kempson)

Phoebe and her friends made the most of a challenging situation but still faced many communication and organisational difficulties.

“We were the first group to be placed into mandatory hotel quarantine in Melbourne, so we were their guinea pigs,” Phoebe said.

“It took five days to arrange a care-package system, twelve days to have groceries delivered and we were denied over-the-counter medication.

“I was told there were no mental health services in place, and I knew without any support someone was going to hurt themselves.”

And she wasn’t wrong.

On April 11, a man was found deceased in hotel quarantine at Melbourne’s South Wharf.

His death has prompted calls for travellers forced into quarantine to be provided with daily telehealth services with a GP or mental health professional.

In response, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told Sunrise he encourages people to access the Coronavirus Mental Health Wellbeing Support Centre services through Beyond Blue.

“We want to make sure we get as many people as we can through the other side as healthy as we can,” Mr McCormack said.

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Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack speaks to Sunrise following hotel quarantine death. (Image source: 7 News)

Phoebe flew into Adelaide on April 13 and is still in isolation in her own home. For her, two weeks at the Crown Metropol was just the beginning.

“There are no words to describe how relieved I am to be home, I can’t wait to hug my family and take my dog for a walk,” she said.

For travellers about to temporarily reside in hotels for quarantine she offers a piece of advice.

“Take every day as it comes…remember this is not permanent and you are not alone.”

If you or someone you know needs help contact Beyond Blue, Lifeline or SANE.

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