In June, New York became the first state to impose a quarantine mandate on visitors arriving from hotspot states, but two months later, it's still unclear how and if the state's quarantine is really being enforced. In most places, especially large countries like the U.S., where case numbers are high and interstate movement is hard to control, quarantine mandates are based on the honor system. Canada is a little bit stricter in that travelers do have to register their quarantine plan with the government, and during that time, someone may call to make sure you are if you said you are—but other countries are taking a more hands-on approach.
TripSavvy spoke to travelers in three different countries enforcing two-week quarantines, all of whom were bussed to a hotel immediately upon landing and were monitored for symptoms for 14 days. At the beginning of this year, before the coronavirus truly upturned the world, most travelers would consider putting their lives on hold for two weeks for a mandatory quarantine are a worst-case scenario. But depending on which country you enter, forced quarantine can even start to sound like a two-week vacation, especially in a world on lockdown.
At the start of Chris Hynes’ quarantine, New Zealand had six active cases of COVID-19.
New Zealand was the first country to declare itself free of COVID-19 in June before the emergence of four cases in August forced the whole country back into lockdown. Quarantine measures are still in place for people reentering the country. When Hynes, a New Zealand native, touched down in Auckland, he was immediately put on a bus that would take him to the Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre, assigned at random, for two weeks of managed isolation.
Upon checking in, a nurse explained that he would be tested on his third and 12th day, and his details were taken down. Then, he was allowed to go up to his room, a two-story Gallery Suite overlooking the water. “I was shocked at how nice it was,” he said.
The room was already equipped with cleaning products and a water filter in addition to standard hotel amenities like a coffee maker. He’s given a menu to fill out each morning for the following day’s meals that offer a hot and cold option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in addition to morning and afternoon tea, which is delivered to his room. All the food is made in the hotel kitchen, and the menu changes daily with items from nachos and stir-fry to lamb shank and beef bourguignon. His whole stay, apart from any alcohol he orders, is paid for by the New Zealand government.
Although they are not allowed to leave the hotel for two weeks, quarantined New Zealanders aren’t exactly trapped in their rooms, either. “There are two security guards by the door when you want to leave and go outside for the walk who ask you for your name and room number, and you’re allowed to leave as much as you want.” A 10-foot fence surrounds the grounds as well, and masks are mandatory at all times.
“It exceeded my expectations,” Hynes says, “Especially to see something so well organized, where they have this system where everything works as it should and how you would expect it to in a pandemic.” He admits that he got lucky with his hotel and knows other New Zealanders who ended up at less nice hotels.
At the start of Sandra Paranteau’s quarantine, Australia had 231 active cases of COVID-19.
Across the ocean in Australia, mandatory quarantines are also in effect, even for Australians crossing state lines, but the conditions aren’t quite as luxurious as they are in New Zealand, and Australians have to pay for it. Paranteau, who had to immediately quarantine with her family while moving from Victoria to Queensland, was assigned a standard room at the Next Hotel Brisbane. She was not given options for her daily meals, although the hotel would accommodate dietary restrictions. They were allowed to go outside but needed to apply using an online system for their fresh air breaks.
“Police will come and knock on your door to allow you out, and they escort you to the allocated space where you get 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the day and how busy they are,” Paranteau said. Despite the average food and limited outdoor time, Sandra was grateful for the friendliness of the hotel staff and believes they were luckier than others to have a window with a view of the city.
At the start of Williams’ quarantine, Saint Lucia had zero active cases of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, in St. Lucia, Janet Marie Williams was enjoying a sunset cruise around the island, while still under the restrictions of mandatory quarantine. After traveling from London to care for her father, Williams could choose her quarantine location and decided on the Stonefield Villa Resort, where she would have her own villa and a private pool, at her own expense of $299 per day, which is considered the local rate for St. Lucian citizens. She was only tested for the virus once before her flight, and during her stay, she had the freedom to move about the resort and could eat her meals in the restaurant and make conversation with the other guests, as long they were six feet away.
Instead of keeping all contact between staff and guests at zero, the resort functioned like one giant bubble, and housekeepers were still allowed into rooms to clean daily, or as often as the guests wanted. By this logic, boat tours, in which the only crew and passengers consist of people from the hotel, were still on the table. “When you leave the resort, the security guards will take your name, your room number, and do a temperature check,” Williams said. “Then they drop you back at the beach, and the same driver is waiting for you, you put your mask on, and you go back to the resort.”
Because she could still go out to the restaurant and do a tour, Williams found the experience luxurious, and while it wasn’t entirely like the quarantine she expected, it was still two weeks on lockdown. “It was two weeks of not being able to do much, but when do you ever get a chance to not do much?”