Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “Judging by my Covid hotel quarantine, Sydney didn’t get the ventilation memo | Coronavirus”
Living through the lockdown in New York City, hard hit by Covid-19 in the early months, made me vigilant – mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding public transport became part of my everyday life since March. To even travel anywhere out of my 20-block radius, during an airborne pandemic, was unfathomable. But when a family member was given a grave health diagnosis, a travel exception had to be made – even if it meant being quarantined over Christmas.
To have been so careful for over 10 months and to then be quickly ushered, by Australian officials in blue combat fatigues, onto a bus with other international travellers, without dedicated windows that open, and then to be put in a room for two weeks, also without windows that open, was a situation I would never have put myself in in New York.
I know it sounds so basic – almost a silly complaint to make while the virus swirls the globe. But ventilation is key. The World Health Organization has reported that aerosol transmission of Covid-19 can occur in “inadequately ventilated spaces”. A quarantined guest nearby was smoking profusely, which for someone with smoke allergies was extremely uncomfortable, but here’s the catch: if I can smell the guest’s smoke – guess what else I could be breathing? Dear Sydney: Covid-19 is an airborne virus – crawling in insufficiently ventilated airport transport vans and quarantine hotel rooms.
When early reports suggested the virus could possibly be airborne. I refitted my apartment with Hepa filters in every room – and even in my vacuum cleaner. I haven’t dined indoors in almost a year; and only if absolute necessity required a taxi, rolled the windows down even in the dead of winter. After you have watched pop-up Covid tents go up, morgue trucks outside the hospital and gurneys rolling bodies into them, you step in line fast. The numbers indicate that indoor venues have greater traction for the virus to spread. I worried about the plane, but the ventilation systems in the aircraft have been deemed equipped to filter viruses (but I’m still not sure about the lavatories).
I was surprised, at a few points at Sydney airport, that the health check professionals who mark your entrance cards, and border control, weren’t wearing full PPE – just a mask and not even an N-95. I thought, are they crazy? Dealing with travellers from the most infected countries all day, I would demand the face shield, N-95, the works. Maybe they had Covid-19 already, which is the only rational explanation. Then at hotel check-in, the idea of social distancing was a little lost, despite the crime scene quantity of officials and police in attendance. Eventually, I was escorted by a person in fatigues to a room that I have no key to (no key is the deterrent from leaving the room, or at least that’s the idea).
A rap at the door three times daily indicates the daily meals have been dropped off. They place it on a chair outside, blocking my door, apparently underestimating my ability to hurdle. I was instructed on checking in to put on my mask and then open the door to pick up the box of food. I haven’t seen anyone yet (I’ve come to think of them as food fairies), as they seem to disappear quickly after the food drop-off. The hallway air – where I am not supposed to step out into – feels slightly fresher, and I have taken to swishing the door back and forth a few times a day to create some circulation, but even that is a worry as the hallway is certainly not better ventilated.
I can tolerate the strict rations of one clean face cloth and towel per week, the no servicing of rooms for two weeks, having to use toilet paper or tissues and body wash to clean surfaces, eating airline-style meals out of mushy cardboard with plastic forks, and even the big fat $3,000 sticker price. But to not have access to any fresh air for two weeks is past what I ever imagined. Even in most jails, prisoners are allowed fresh air each day.
• Debra Winter is a Canadian journalist based in New York City. Her writing has been published in the Atlantic, the Guardian and World Travel Magazine
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Judging by my Covid hotel quarantine, Sydney didn’t get the ventilation memo | Coronavirus