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Exercise yards in hotel quarantine
Photograph: Cass Knowlton

I got stuck in hotel quarantine. Here's what I've learnt

I thought I was going on a four-day holiday... whoops!

Cassidy Knowlton
Written by
Cassidy Knowlton

On Tuesday, February 9, I flew to Tasmania for a four-day holiday. It has been quite a while since interstate holidays were on the cards, and I was eagerly looking forward to the trip. Caves, walks, whisky, gin, great food, it was a... wait. Tuesday, February 9. Melbourne Airport. Not Terminal 4, by any chance? Why yes, it was Terminal 4, and just like that, I was a "primary close contact" of a positive case. My partner and I were ordered to go into immediate quarantine, and since we couldn't return home without getting on a plane, we were sent to one of Hobart's quarantine hotels to wait out the 14 days. 

We've both returned negative tests, but there's no early release for good behaviour. I'm glad our public health response is so robust, and erring on the side of caution seems the most prudent thing to do. But here's what I wish I'd thought of before leaving Victoria. 

This could get extremely expensive. Our liaison officer told us that hotel quarantine is at our expense, but it is possible the Tasmanian government will waive the fee due to Victoria's lockdown. There is precedence for this, as Tasmania put up travellers who were sent into lockdown by Sydney's Christmas lockdown, but if not, we're up for the $3,800 cost.

You should pack for your holiday... plus two weeks. I am extremely glad I brought my laptop for a four-day jaunt, but I wish I'd packed enough medication and contact lenses for two weeks. Friends in Melbourne are sending things down by courier, but who knows when that will arrive.

You should bring amusements. Laptops and phones are great, but it sure would be nice to have a board game, cards or dice. Or even a jigsaw puzzle – and I loathe jigsaw puzzles. 

Yes, you are locked in one room. Two of us are stuck in one single hotel room for 23.5 hours a day. Once a day we are brought outside by the guards to walk around in a small pen set up in the hotel car park (pictured). We are fortunate that the windows open in our room, but not every quarantine hotel has that ability. 

Your meals are included, but you get what you're given. Three times a day, there is a knock at our door to let us know our sack lunches are there. We wait a minute, to give the guard time to leave the hallway, then open it and bring our food inside. There's no menu or choice given, though if you have dietary restrictions the hotel will accommodate them. 

But you can order things. Woolworths and Coles will deliver to the hotel, so you can get necessary items like laundry soap, floss, fruit and snacks. You can't order everything, though – we tried to get a bread knife (to cut some fancy sourdough we had planned to bring back to Melbourne) and some string (to hang up laundry), and neither were permitted. But you can order takeaway if you want. 

Expect a lot of phone calls. Tasmanian and Victorian health authorities have been in daily contact by phone, checking up on us, making sure we are doing OK and doing the right thing. This outbreak has encompassed a lot of venues, and the authorities are putting in an absolutely Herculean effort to talk to all possible contacts and keep everyone safe.

Keep busy. You'll go crazy if you don't have a routine. Here are 101 things you can do when you're stuck to keep your mind and body active.

Want to make sure you're not caught out? Here are our favourite subscription services in Melbourne, including jigsaw puzzles, coffee and snacks

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