personal finance

‘I’ve been washing clothes in my sink’: the reality of hotel quarantine

Yesterday was salmon and a box of kale – not a combination I’ve eaten before. In fact, most meals seem to be served with a box of some leaves or other, no plates are provided. It’s never bad food, it’s just not what I normally eat.

I’m on day 10 of my stay in hotel quarantine, so I’ll be leaving to go home on Tuesday. I’m in a small room, not much bigger than the bed, so there’s really not a lot of space. By some way of recompense I have a massive window which is floor to ceiling and opens, so fresh air is plentiful – and much needed.

I’ve been travelling for work, which is in technology for air traffic control. My job is exempt from travel restrictions, but I returned from a red-list country so was required to quarantine. I didn’t have any problems booking the hotel, but I only got a confirmation that I’d paid, and no indication of which hotel I was allocated, so I couldn’t complete the passenger locator form, which you need to board the aircraft. This necessitated a very long and very expensive call back to the UK to find out.

Chris, who is quarantining in a hotel after travelling for essential work
Chris, who is quarantining in a hotel after travelling for essential work. Photograph: Chris/Guardian Community

When you arrive at the hotel, you can make a selection of food from a menu for the following 10 days. There’s two meal choices per day, one veggie and one meat. That said, we can order from the hotel’s menu or order food in from anywhere around to be delivered.

One thing which irked me slightly was the hotel’s offer to wash “seven essential items” for free. Given that most of us wear many items of clothing per day, this seems like not enough for a 10-day stay. They’ll wash more for a charge, though I’m not sure how much it costs. They haven’t defined what an essential item of laundry is. Are jeans essential when you’re locked in a room alone, or is it just underwear? And I didn’t press them on whether socks count as one item or two.

It’s been 45 days since I was home in Poole, and because I’ve been away for so long, I had my own laundry detergent, so I’ve been washing clothes in my sink. I also have my Xbox, which is lucky, although I didn’t think when I set off I’d be bringing it here. My friends have been magnificent in sending me unsolicited care packages – everything from sarcastic “i-Spy” books to adult “sweary” colouring books, some scones with jam and cream, a Rubik’s cube and even a case of beer. I even got an “escape room” puzzle book, which I thought was appropriate.

One of Chris’s meals in the quarantine hotel.
One of Chris’s meals in the quarantine hotel. Photograph: Chris./Guardian Community

My company gave me the option of working, so I did two days’ work over four mornings, which kept me reasonably occupied and gave me something to get up for in the morning.

I’ve had two negative tests, one on day three, and one on day eight, so I’ll be leaving tomorrow.

Another meal Chris has been given in the hotel quarantine.
Another meal Chris has been given in the hotel quarantine. Photograph: Chris/Guardian Community

In the hotel, there may have been some people not behaving themselves, which has made me furious. Some seem to be having gatherings opposite me, with people coming up the stairs and going into other people’s rooms to chat, and I called the reception to report it. My wife works on a Covid ward in a hospital, so I couldn’t be more in favour of people following the rules.

I fully support the quarantine even though it’s frustrating to have affected me. Looking at how countries like Australia have fared, we should have done this more than 12 months ago and we could have saved thousands of lives. At the end of the day it’s only 10 days, I’m safe and warm, and I have food and a roof over my head. So while there’s perhaps a raft of first-world privations, I don’t have any genuine complaints.


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