Australia Correspondent in Quarantine: “Seems like a bad thriller”

Lonely confinement, no fresh air, life on plane food and an underground network to gain information. It sounds like a script for a bad thriller, but it‘s the reality for people traveling to Australia in corona time, like me.

For eleven days I’ve been locked in a hotel room in central Sydney. Under no circumstances should I leave the room. The door is not locked, but if I walk the hallway I risk a fine of at least 1000 Australian dollars.

Compulsory quarantine is one of the strictest in the world. Anyone who enters the country, as well as travelling between the Australian Länder, must be 14 days in isolation in a hotel room.

When I arrived at the Sydney airport, I was met by the army. After a health check, I was put on a bus and drove to a hotel, without knowing where we were going. Soldiers took me to my room and left me alone. The only human contact I‘ve had since then was when nurses knocked up to take a corona-virus test.

On social media, there are dozens of forums and groups where people interact with each other in quarantine. They share their experiences, photos of the sometimes unsavoury food, and give each other tips to get through the time. That way, I got in touch with a journalist from the Australian public service broadcaster who is staying at the same hotel. Her room has a balcony and I am very jealous of that, because in my room there can’t even be a window open. Through Twitter, we speak courage to each other.

Every day I get a call from the nurses asking if I have covid symptoms and what my mental health is like. It‘s not for nothing that they ask about this, many people struggle with compulsory isolation. And some people even venture to escape it.

Escape by tying sheets together

In the Australian city of Perth, a man escaped from a hotel by tying his sheets together and climbing down from four high. And two weeks ago, a 22-year-old woman escaped from her hotel in Cairns on the east coast of the country. She kicked into a door and climbed over two balconies to escape quarantine. Police say that the woman struggled with isolation and wanted to be with her mother.

It fined her 2500 Australian dollars (1570 euros).

Most Australians support strict policies, but there is also criticism of this system. It’s very expensive, the stay costs 3000 Australian dollars (1880 euros) and not everyone can afford that.

Non-waterproof

In addition, it is not waterproof. The virus has escaped quarantine several times. That‘s why more than half of the Australian population is currently in lockdown, about 13 million people. Again, the Australian government does not shy away from any gross measures, while in total only about 1300 infections have been counted in the country.

Due to the Australian government’s zero-tolerance policy, strict lockdowns and quarantine system remain part of the Australian experience for the time being. Even if I can leave my hotel room in three days, I have to stay indoors in the coming period. But at least I can go outside occasionally for some fresh air.