If you’re reading this you’re probably curious about Australia’s mandatory government issued 14 day quarantine. Whether you are merely curious about Australia’s extreme COVID measures or are going to have to quarantine yourself-- you’re in the right place.
I ended up having to complete the quarantine because my husband, Rasmus, got a job in Australia/New Zealand mid-pandemic. There was no getting around the solitary confinement. On my way to Australia, I read god-awful reviews of people’s hotel quarantine experiences, so I was stressed.
When I landed after my 15-hour flight to Sydney I was pleasantly surprised when our military-escorted bus pulled up to the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. I’d later find out it was the first 5-star hotel in Sydney. On a normal January morning, I'd be stoked to be at this central, plush hotel.
I was quite willing to make this sacrifice to protect people who couldn't protect themselves from COVID. As much as it sucked, it was the right thing to do. I'm quite proud to be in a country that's taken the right steps to protect it's citizens!
About Australia's Quarantine Process
Sydney Sofitel Wentworth
About Australia’s Mandatory COVID-19 Quarantine
Everyone coming into Australia has to complete the 14-day quarantine. At the beginning of the pandemic Australian citizens were called home, if they didn’t answer the call, they knew they might find trouble at the border later. And now, everyone, citizens included, has to complete the quarantine.
This is a massive effort on behalf of the Australian government to prevent COVID-19 cases from entering their well-guarded country. In the beginning, the hotel cost was subsidized by the government but now it’s not. In total, the price usually tops $3,000 USD. According to Australia quarantine law,
“The Chief Health Officer may release a person after 14 days if satisfied that the person does not pose a risk of infecting another person with COVID-19. ” - NSW Government
Upon arrival, people are military-escorted to predetermined hotels in the port-of-entry city. While in quarantine, people receive three meals a day; meals are dropped off in a paper bag outside their door. No visitors are allowed.
Each day on-site nurses call to check on hotel stayers to see if they’ve developed any symptoms. And everyone gets COVID tested on day two and day ten. If you test positive at any time, then your 14-day sentence starts over.
Australia and Coronavirus Cases
Overall, Australian quarantine rules seem to be working. After the grueling two weeks, people enter a relatively open country compared to other competitive nations around the world.
Right now Australia is experiencing 8 to 15 new COVID cases a day as opposed to the USA’s 250,000 new cases a day. COVID in Australia is low and mostly under control. See the current numbers here.
In general, I would never choose to do this again. But my husband’s job took us here, so I didn’t have any other choice.
I am a very routined, organized person that generally likes to be independent. But this experience was not enjoyable. It feels like I got a real insight into the lives of people in incarceration. I hated feeling totally powerless.
Food in Quarantine
The food was generally good. I was lucky to be put into a nice hotel. Some Australians told me that after the government stopped subsidizing the hotels that the hotels got nicer.
I had a preset menu that I could see each week. I don’t eat gluten, and the hotel was generally accommodating and even found me gluten-free pastries.
Every morning, noon, and night I got a knock on my door, which was someone dropping off my meal. The worker would run away after they knocked, so I couldn’t infect them with COVID when I answered the door - HA. I never actually caught a person dropping food off; they were that good.
A Lackluster NYE and Birthday
Sadly, I had to spend New Year’s Eve and my 27th birthday in quarantine. How’s that for good timing? New Year’s is a massive event in Sydney, and they do a spectacular fireworks show. Sydney is one of the first cities worldwide to ring in the New Year.
The hotel did deliver a bottle of wine to my room for the holiday, which was sweet. But I couldn’t see the fireworks from my room, sadly, because of the skyscrapers. Instead, I could see the sky light up with colored smoke. The fireworks were so loud they shook me out of bed!
My birthday was filled with knocks on my door, which was pleasant! My husband and family had flowers, cake, and little surprises organized throughout the day. I had a more enjoyable birthday than I imagined. It was easier to pass the time on FaceTime and on the phone.
This quarantine experience is humdrum and colorless. Do not do this unless you absolutely have to. I will be avoiding this quarantine at all costs in the future, which could bar me from making some trips home to the USA. But trust me, it is just not worth it right now.
Fourteen days is a long time without fresh air. It's actually 1/24 of the year-- I had time to count. To keep busy in my Sydney quarantine, I had my remote work (40 hours a week), books, FaceTime, workouts, and Netflix!
I would consistently set a reading timer to read undistracted. I almost finished Obama’s new book (nearly 800 pages). I also did 1-2 workouts a day on Aaptiv - one of my favorite workout apps.
The time spent in the room killed my lower back. It was tons of sitting, pacing, and standing. I am thankful that the experience is over, and hopefully, my tips can help others endure their stays!
I am happy, though, to know that I am contributing to a healthier society in Australia. I am willing to protect those unable to protect themselves here, and I think the USA could learn a lot from Australia's tactics.
If you absolutely have to do the quarantine I have put together a little packing list below for you. My exercise equipment kept me sane.
Australia Quarantine Survival Packing List
Getting through Quarantine is no small feat. I felt like it was a mild form of solitary confinement. When the nurse came to COVID test me on the 10th day I really didn't want her to leave.
If you're heading into quarantine - I have you covered. This is your critical must-pack list.
Food and Snacks
You don't get much of a choice when it comes to food. So bring or order your favorite snacks. Most places don't have coffee pots, but instead, a tea kettle.
Instant coffee and tea
Condiments (I need spicy food)
Order takeout to stay sane - menulog.com.au
Order groceries - woolworths.com.au
Two weeks is a long time to go without cleaning. And they'll give you a change of sheets on day seven. But you'll still want a few things.
Dishwashing liquid (travel size)
Laundry detergent to hand-wash clothes (laundry was $40 for six items!)
Cleaning wipes of some kind. I recommend environmentally friendly Norwex antibacterial cloths - the envirocloth
A great way to pass the time is to have a few self-care items. I would consider bringing:
This stuff is really non-negotiable. I would have died without it.
Rental spin bike - rented mine through Healthy Hire in Sydney for $200 AUD
I went in with a goal to finish a book. Each day I'd set a timer for a half-hour or hour with my book. This is a great way to pass time and be productive.
A good book or two
Another good way to pass time is with steaming shows. Find something funny, inspiring, or educational. I was watching lots of Netflix Explained and History 101.
Stan (Aussie service)
You need the right equipment to get you through quarantine. I rented a 27-inch computer monitor to do my work and it made all the difference.
HMDI to connect to TV
Blue light glasses
Rental monitor - I rented mine for $100 from Healthy Hire in Sydney
I really wish I had brought some crayons or markers to play with. It gets really boring. I saw some people taping up drawings or signs to the outside world and that looked fun.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions drop them below and I'll be sure to answer them.
Thanks, and stay safe out there! Sending love from Sydney, off to Tasmania today. Stay tuned for more Australia blogs.