As an update on my, let’s say grueling experience of traveling to the UK for family issues, I have in fact managed to get back to NZ and am now experiencing all the fun that’s involved with MIQ.
Now I want to preface this piece by saying that I understand the ‘privileged’ position I happen to be in as I am painfully aware of how there are still many unfortunate people that have yet to secure an MIQ spot and have stories probably worse than mine, however, I can only speak from my experience and say that our (NZ’s) current Covid response is overkill – and is getting right up my nose, both figuratively and literally.
To recap, I have over the past month travelled from NZ to the UK via Singapore which entailed precision timing in terms of Covid testing, double jabbing, form filling and ‘2-day’ PCR (up the nose swab) testing upon arrival in the UK. I have taken two side visits into Europe, one to France and another to Germany (both requiring a negative PCR tests before leaving and PCR tests upon return) and then a PCR test before jumping on the plane back to NZ. Upon arrival, I have had a 1-day PCR test once in MIQ and there’s another three more ahead of me before I can (hopefully) leave after my two weeks of isolation – frankly my nose feels busier than the Waterview tunnel.
While in the UK, my ‘family issue’ meant that there was an extraordinary amount of hugging and several tears involved. There were lots of breaks to cafes, busy bars (remember that?), restaurants and supermarkets (there was no hugging in the supermarket but a few tears as I saw how low the pricing is there). Most but not all of the above came with a respectable amount of social distancing and a mask wear here and there – but either way, I thankfully returned negative results throughout.
Anyway, back to the point of this piece, and my observations from afar.
Despite their dire start to handling the pandemic, England appears to be getting on with things well now. Their positive case numbers are horrific in comparison to NZ (around 38,000 a day) and deaths are in the region of 150, which is again eye watering, literally. BUT there seems to be a ‘learning to live with it’ attitude coming through. Most people I spoke to are double jabbed and looking forward to the 3rd booster and although there is a respect for Covid and what it’s capable of, it doesn’t seem to be ruling their lives. As a footnote, according to the UK Government Stats – 0.8% of the Covid deaths were double jabbed.
Along with the ‘living with it’ attitude, there is a huge sense of freedom in England and it’s getting less shackled as time goes on. Borders are open and travel is becoming easier, which in turn means industry is opening up (yes I know there is an energy and truck driver shortage there right now). Conversely I am sitting in a lovely downtown hotel awaiting release.
Now on the face of it, a two week stay in a luxury hotel away from it all sounds awesome, however, I can tell you it is not. I’m being poked, prodded, monitored and observed with frequent calls asking if I’m ‘showing any symptoms’. Temperature guns are being pointed at my head a lot and as I said, nasal swabs are plentiful.
The room itself is fine with views out to the back of Queen street and the NZ School of Tourism (the irony isn’t lost on me). I don’t look out of the window in the morning though, so I have something to do in the afternoon. Food is delivered three times a day via a knock and run system at the door. The room is small with a short corridor which (at 12 steps long) means that my 10,000 steps a day target makes me dizzier than a Yankie on Moonshine.
In terms of exercise, we are allowed (once proven negative) a guarded walk around the 12th floor car park, but it’s for 30 mins only and every other day – Also, strict orders NOT to do vigorous exercise there such as running, push ups, burpees, and no yoga balls, scooters, bikes, food, drink or spitting is allowed – (Section 70 of the Corrections Act 2004, which provides: (1) Every prisoner (other than a prisoner who is engaged in outdoor work) may, on a daily basis, take at least 1 hour of physical exercise) just saying.
The food is good with a heap of variety, but only two menu choices, with or without meat. I decided to order the two weeks in advance so every day is a surprise, a small but significant win – The Coco Pops this morning was great.
Sky movies are thrown in which is a nice touch, but they do tend to repeat the movies which means I have resorted to watching some RomComs and Dolph Lundgren (don’t judge me).
Watching the Covid numbers report each day does open another sense of irony to me though, yesterday there were a record number of community cases and yet NONE in MIQ – am I safer here in the hotel?
I’ll end this (whinging/rant) by saying that not once has anyone asked if I’m vaccinated, not through three different checks at the border, not through three days of ‘wellness checks’, not once! (Tilts head and offers a toothy smile)