Welcome to New Zealand. Please keep your mask on.

Welcome to New Zealand. Please keep your mask on.

Travelling in Covid times

Day Zero – Arrival in New Zealand

Usually I get very excited about getting on a plane, travelling, but not today. I’m flying to Auckland, just a 3 ½ hour flight from Melbourne. This is my first flight since the Covid pandemic began, I don’t know what to expect.

The Melbourne Airport Ambassador points me to the Air New Zealand check in counter before I have time to look at the departure board, it’s one of only two flights departing in the next few hours. It’s surreal walking passed closed shops and cafes, empty departure lounges, all the lights off.

Seats in the departure lounge remind us to allow 1.5m between people, don’t sit next to a stranger!

Landing in Auckland, the first sign that all is not normal is when the seat belt sign is turned off. Nobody moved. Those ‘Very Important Passengers’ that insist on jumping out of their seat, grabbing their hand luggage and racing to the front of the disembark queue, don’t seem to be on this flight. The crew asked us to stay seated, everybody did. They called some ‘transit’ passengers forward. Nine people went forward. Everyone else stayed still. EVERYONE! Imagine the situation if all of Victoria did as they were told.

Inside Auckland Airport we follow the ‘X’’s on the floor, all 1.5 metres apart. There are more checkpoints than usual, strategically placed 1.5metres apart. Friendly, mask wearing Kiwis record our temperature, check details, ask the usual Covid exposure questions, tick boxes, confirm contact details and send me on to the next stop. Everyone’s patient, thorough, empathetic and calm.

Exiting into the Arrival Hall a friendly policeman directs me to another queue, the Iso Hotel queue. They record my details and direct me to a bus. It’s dark now so as Auckland eats dinner, I’m on my way, with a bus load of strangers, to my Iso Hotel, home for the next 14 days.

Arriving at the Hotel, we’re briefed on The Rules before leaving the bus. Disembarking there’re more ‘X’s to follow, details to be taken and informational hand outs. I’ve come prepared to be in my room 24/7 with reading material, a knitting project, exercise routines, and of course, my spreadsheet of client’s cancelled holiday plans and ongoing refunds to follow up.  A pleasant surprise, we can move around the Hotel, wearing a mask and maintaining 2 metres social distancing. I’m thinking the highlights will be the 45 minutes of outdoor exercise, walking around the sundeck (70 steps for one lap), and the opportunity to purchase real coffee!

Day One – My first full day in Iso.

Meals are delivered in plastic containers inside simple, brown paper carrier bags. There’s a knock on the door and the bag is left outside, minimal contact. I’m self-contained with cutlery and crockery, dishwashing liquid and tea towel, in control of housekeeping too. When I’ve finished the meal, I place the plastic container in the brown paper bag and leave it outside the door, simple and standard procedure for the next 42 meals. I’ve ticked the boxes, submitted meal requests, no thinking about what to cook for dinner.

Another door knock and I’m greeted by a friendly nurse bearing a thermometer and a few more questions, ‘any symptoms?’

Masked up, it’s time to explore the Hotel. I take the lift down to register for my 45 minutes outside and buy coffee. My first iso lesson – be quick to register for walking, I get the last place on the last walk of the day tomorrow!

Calls from friends and family remind me that I might be isolated but I’m not alone. One day at a time, it’ll be ok.

Helen Rolton
Based in Richmond, VIC
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