My Trip to Australia - Quarantine Day Two #noRona
Day 2 (technically 1) - Sunday, May 30th 2021
I got a decent sleep, but when you pass out at 8 pm and wake up at 6:30 am with barely a recollection of ever needing to get up, I think it's a safe assumption I slept well. I don't sleepwalk so that's a positive. I'd imagine that if I did and had left my room I would've been shot after been read the riot act yesterday.
The first order of business is to try and get a room with a balcony or at least be put on a waiting list. At least give me a light at the end of the tunnel or a task to "keep my mind focussed" which I'm sure is the first suggestion the mental health team would probably say if I was to tell them I was starting to crack. During my reading, I find how the United Nations declare that Prisoners/Detainees are to be treated. It states that their accommodations:
"Shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light, and constructed so they can allow the entrance of fresh air whether or not there is artificial ventilation."
This is why prisoners even in solitary confinement get one hour of recreational time outside. Unless they are being punished. So what are we being punished for? The crime of being outside of Fortress Australia? Probably.
Something that became apparent on the first day was the false advertising of the Hotel's information booklet that says "Menu". For the record, I didn't expect to get champagne and caviar or have that option. But I thought it would be like Hospital or even on an Airplane where you had a menu and you made your choice as to what you wanted. Nevertheless, that's not how it worked. The menu was set, but in all fairness, I didn't have a bad meal at all yesterday. So this "Menu" is just advertising the downstairs cafe selling itself for anything else that you wanted and had to pay for.
At that point, I hear the food cart outside my room. The deliveries are made to each room and there seems to be this clicking sound as they head down the hallway combined with knocks on each door. Something I have, quite scarily, become accustomed to already. I get the menu also for today's meals. Not a fan of breakfast (the Bircher Museli bit) but lunch and dinner sounds divine.
Having been on the road for four days prior to getting to Australia I decided to investigate the Laundry situation. I am disappointed to discover that it's not only an additional charge. but for "precautions" you have to buy a specific bag at $22 a pop. Then it's $22 for each bag you send down to be washed. Say what?
I believe this to be a double standard in the programme. Think about it, spend $3,000 for a spot in the programme, get a serviced apartment and no need to spend extra on laundry because you can do it yourself. Get a hotel room and "oh you have to pay for that" the thought of just forgetting about doing laundry and wearing dirty clothes for a fortnight crosses my mind. Come on, who am I looking good for? Everyone in this building sees me as a threat anyway. If I was allowed out, they aren't going to approach me even if I had clean laundry. There's no clothesline in the bathroom or any way I could hang the clothing up if I was to wash it in the bathroom sink, it looks like, dirty laundry for me.
I consider ordering an Aussie care package of food from Woolies. The earliest and cheapest delivery is tomorrow morning, but I'm not giving up on changing rooms so I opt to delay ordering. I'm also dying to hop in the shower, but the phone in the room, despite being on the high volume setting still rings so low that I wouldn't hear it. So I delay the shower until I get the Daily Check-In call from the nurses. Why delay? Well, the Police Sergeant gave us strict orders that we have to answer that phone because if we didn't then one of his officers has to come up to the room.
I can imagine that's actually an inconvenience for them. In fairness, I would imagine they would have to kit themselves up in full PPE in case they have to enter the room. I do understand how the alarm bells would probably go off if someone doesn't answer the phone. Considering the stories from the quarantine of suicide and self-harm attempts that have occurred to date. Also considering the emphasis on Mental Health in all the literature we're given prior to getting to the room and the constant questioning of "any history of mental health issues?". So I totally get why they're concerned, I mean, after all, they are locking up perfectly healthy people up in a room for two weeks without fresh air.
The call comes mid-morning. I get the standard questions related to Rona and the response of "yes it's tough and we hear this constantly" when I ask again to be moved. I can't help but think if they are logging this lack of fresh air with people then why aren't their higher-ups considering new venues? Now I get why balconies are a concern, there's the threat of an "escape" or tragically a suicide, which has happened. But a room with the ability to open up part of a window? I've stayed in hotel rooms where you can open a small part of the window and unless your Eugene Toombs in that episode of 'The X-Files' there's no way you're going to get out.
It's a battle that's going to be lost and I get the impression that a hunger strike or simply opening your door and sitting outside in a mask until you get your way (as suggested by one of my colleagues due to join the fun and games next week said). The sympathy seems zero from the outside. Even the security guard on the floor the day before gave me an attitude as the ADF escorted me to my room. He clearly wanted to know my room number but I didn't know that. Then again he might simply be that way because he is the third cog in the wheel of this programme. Whereas his security brothers in Victoria are primarily in charge.
During the afternoon I do some further reading and research and am quite stumped at how many epidemiologists are against the hotel quarantine programme due to its lack of ventilation. Professor Jason Monty, head of Melbourne University's Mechanical Engineering department, after studying hospital ventilation stated that when it comes to Hotel Quarantine:
“The ventilation in most city hotels is extremely poor, and that state governments should start investing in open-air quarantine facilities”
"Hotels often have what's called positive pressure in their rooms, which means air is trying to get out because the ventilation system is weak. That air usually has two ways out: either through the door or through a window. If you close the windows it only has one way out and that's through the door. It's a gap in the system that we've been pushing pretty hard for the government to respond to since, June-July 2020,"
The argument to build a Camp, which I am totally against. But right now I would gladly do Howard Springs over this. I know people who have done Howard Springs and the amount of fresh air they had was a daily occurrence. I have even heard reports that some people are permitted to exercise around the complex for an hour a day. One Epidemiologist who is for Hotel Quarantine, Dr Zoe Hyde of the University of WA states:
"The hotel Quarantine system is a good one. We need to keep it but we definitely need to improve it. With people being placed into often highrise buildings with no access to fresh air, no balconies for example. It’s an ideal environment for aerosol transmission. At the very least we need to be moving people into hotels with plenty of outdoor ventilation, balconies for example."
"Transporting people on buses that have much more access to outdoor ventilation. We need open windows basically rather than these sort of enclosed buses with recirculating air conditioning."
That's the simple fix Australia. No need to build camps, just put us in rooms with a window we can open. But that's right I'm sure with Australia's paranoia the one person with COVID that has a window open could rightly spread an aerosol transmission outside. Well if that's the case move the accommodations out of the CBD. Maybe that's why celebrities are permitted to quarantine at a resort? It's way out of town and has heaps of fresh air. Seems perfect to me. I'm sure that's a cheaper option in the long run than a half-billion-dollar, 500-bed camp.
It's hard to be motivated in a room when you realise you have no chance of getting fresh air for two weeks so I spend the afternoon doing sweet FA besides putting that Woolies order in and posting some pre-taken photos to my social media to suggest I'm still in the US. I really hope I can surprise everyone at the end of this.
Although I must say the highlight of the day was dinner. Only a couple of weeks ago I was telling a US Colleague that if they loved fishing they had to come to Australia (whenever they want to rejoin the world) and go fishing for a Bara. Without a doubt it is the best fish in the world and dinner did not disappoint.