Shepparton News journalist Liam Nash has been weathering the first stages of COVID-19 from the safety of New Zealand. But he’s now back – sort of. First item on his comeback agenda is 14 days of isolation in a Melbourne Hotel. He takes up the story.
I currently sit on the 22nd floor of the Novotel South Wharf, surveying the beating heart of Melbourne’s from on high.
Usually this vibrant panorama (on my salary) would have me rubbing my eyes in disbelief, but since coronavirus has me boarded up in this very room for the next two weeks in mandatory isolation (and strictly condemns touching of the face), I’m not as stoked as I should be.
For some background on the situation, let’s back up a few paces.
With an impending global pandemic, accompanied by a murky cloud of employment uncertainty swirling during March, the decision for me to return home was made post-haste.
Touching down at Auckland Airport approximately eight hours before New Zealand reached total lockdown, I entered an initial isolation experience which turned out to be a breeze.
Segregated in my parent’s shed/apartment I was free to roam the lands, pluck fresh fruit from the bushes and, dare I admit, experiment with yoga during those two weeks.
Life resumed with normality in the month following, until it was time to return to Australia.
However, hopping across the pond on Saturday involved somewhat more of a rigmarole.
Admittedly unprepared for the process ahead, skipping breakfast meant the majority of the day’s calorie intake lay in the form of questionable scrambled eggs, baked beans and a sole chicken sausage courtesy of Air New Zealand.
I hold no vitriol toward the airline’s blazer-clad folk as I can understand gourmet cuisine isn’t typically reserved for consumption at 30 000 feet, but let’s put it this way – it is subject material for countless lame stand-up jokes for a reason.
Upon landing, we travellers were funnelled straight through into a strict customs process, where the lack of a manned kiosk or sight of people perusing the duty-free section made for an eerie experience.
The usual overwhelming miasma of Chanel No. 5 and Estee Lauder was replaced by a neutral sterility, with the familiar warmth of welcome by officials not reserved for this particular occasion.
Formalities were left at the gate as we, a cavalcade of mask-clad faces, were pressed for information on why we intended to enter the country during such a perilous patch of human history.
After being handed the umpteenth pamphlet detailing all rules, regulations and other aspects of the nation’s coronavirus precautionary measures, it was time to head to chambers where the Scott Morrison government had decided to dump me for a 14-day forced sabbatical.
My sigh of relief was deafening at the realisation I had a sizeable room with a view at my disposal, and later the day reached a peak when dinner was delivered with a knock on the door.
Not one, but two sandwiches containing chicken of a spreadable consistency hit the spot (considering the earlier meal, it was prime rib eye in comparison), and after washing it all down with a glass of overpriced, middling Sauvignon blanc, it was time to rest.
Sadly, the view’s fleeting novelty has since passed, and while I don’t consider myself much of a creative soul, it has dawned that there will never be a better time to flex the right side of the brain in the midst of my COVID-19-soaked stay.
So, share in this journey with me as each day I document my experience and soldier on through feelings of entrapment within the walls of a four-and-a-half-star hotel room.
Yours in lockdown,