After months of delay and several failed attempts, 10 Australia editor Alison Veness has finally made it back to her family in Australia. The restrictions placed on returning travellers are severe and Veness now has complete two weeks of Covid quarantine, locked-up, alone in her hotel room in Perth before she can finally get home to Sydney. If you thought only boring people got bored, think again. Here’s her quarantine diary.
Mandatory Quarantine. Perth, Australia.
Day #wahwah of 14 days.
Sometimes life deals unexpected sideways glances. The steady whirr of an air conditioning machine. 22c. The distant sound of a toilet flushing. A cough in the corridor. Someone banging on the hotel room door delivering another breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.
Day #one. The phone rings. There’s no one on the line. Day #two. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, the cistern is slowly filling – it takes eight minutes. The bathroom sink is full of dishes plastic knives and forks and a flannel for washing up. It’s not snowing, it’s air conditioning. Muffled, mild. There is a small bug in the room. Bonjour tristesse. Bought it at WHSmith, thank you Francoise Sagan. There are three smoke alarms and two sprinklers. A highlight, the Covid test. A nurse arrives and is very gentle inside the mouth and nose. A negative diagnosis. There will be no human contact for another 11days 48 minutes and 30 seconds.
Dancing, dancing, dancing to Bryan Adams, The Cure, Dolly Parton, David Bowie, Max MTV Memory Lane. Day three and a bit. 3am, Donald Trump is throwing baseball caps into the audience. WTF. The TV. Oh my friend. Flickering. Muted. Rewind. Day #zero. Perth Airport. We are sanitised, masked up, seated in tidy rows near the baggage carousel, and we wait, wait, cogitate for hours and then we board coaches one by one, overseen by the watchmen, the army, police and Australian border force. There will be no runners, no escapees from these 65 souls across this hot tarmac.
Silence. We are the virus Superspreaders. The convoy rolls the police lights flash and we are escorted through the streets towards Hotel Quarantine, a complicated concrete box built on the edge of the lucky country, a stealthy harmony of beige. Good Citizens chin up! Quick march. Nothing to see here. Breakfast, 6am. Lunch, noon. Dinner, 6pm. Vegetarian option. Wet and easy. Soft food easy. Easy it all up with bendy plastic knives and forks. No metal cutlery by decree, the mini kettle of boiling water is an option.
A box of fruit arrives from Shay and brightens up the day. The two-meter orange ribbon is a beacon of hope, Edie Beale beckons. claustrophobia agoraphobia hysteria. Stay calm deep breathing, yoga on a bath mat. Running on the spot. Jumping on the bed. Screaming. No one comes. Rearrange the furniture. This way that way. Why not. Rewire the room. Drip, drip, drip, drip. Hope is the highway, the trees. The view. Oh, the view. The concrete jungle split by an oasis a miracle in the middle of the city, trees. In the distance, the top of a stadium stands tall and beyond that dark hills. The windows are sealed up by government order. Please, please promise we won’t sing outside the window.
Banging on the door. They drop and run. A supermarket delivery: Vegemite, crisps, digestive biscuits, yoghurt, spinach, lemons, oil, cottage cheese. The bar fridge is packed tight. The candles, the matches, the sharp knife have all been removed from the shopping. They know the dark truth. I was going to light one hundred candles and cut up a tomato. Never let it be said we didn’t do our bit to help keep down community transmission. We are dubious but we are divine and we have seen only a glimmer of what it’s like to be on the other side and we weep, we are grateful.
Photographs by Alison Veness.