My COVID Journey: Quarantine-Day 1

23 Feb , 2021  

After feeling to exhausted yesterday it wasn’t until midnight that I got to sleep. This is good though as I get used to the NZ time difference which is 6 hours ahead. It’s day 2 really now isn’t it. I wonder if they call it day 0 so try and make us think we haven’t been here as long as we have?

Unfortunately I woke at 2 am for a while. Somewhere I drifted off again as I was woken at 9am by the phone ringing asking what I wanted to eat tomorrow. A Menu is slipped under the door each morning.

My brother, Steve, stuck in Quarantine also in a hotel in the central city (Pullman), believes the Government is stuffing us full of food so we are too docile to be able move and try to escape.

The phone rang again at 10am asking if I had received the text message with my COVID-19 test result. I hadn’t and the nurse advised it was negative. 30 mins later 2 people appeared at my door and gave me a blue band.

Code Blue – able to leave room

I’m wondering how people in New Zealand behave outside. All I’ve ever heard the last 10 months is how many cases of COVID-19 there are each day, which is not a lot. The media doesn’t seem to have covered much else related to COVID-19 such as how people are going about their lives, what it’s like to have COVID (most people seem to recover easily it seems). Of course the effect on the economy is often reported.

To most of the world, New Zealand doesn’t exist. Often left off maps. Perhaps Peter Jackson, the America’s Cup or Jacinta’s COVID response have caused more people to hear of NZ. Maybe. To most people in New Zealand, Laos doesn’t exist, so where does that put Laos then? Even less know n than New Zealand. Life is very normal in Laos. We mingle, we don’t wear masks. We can go to cafes, bars and lunch together. I had a farewell party with 70 friends the week I left. It is much the same in NZ from what I can establish. Much the same except masks are worn on public transport.

So I got thinking about the COVID situation … and tooting Laos’ horn a little.

NZ, Laos and COVID-19

The Cook Islands, Samoa, Tokelau, Vanuatu and Tonga have had no cases. On the WHO list of countries with COVID-19 cases, New Zealand ranks 43rd with 2001 cases. Laos is ranked 14 with 45 cases (and no deaths’). Despite a poor health system, Laos has been in a real lockdown since late March. In February, prior to Chinese new year, Laos closed borders with China stopping the virus from entering Laos. Laos shares a land border with China (along with Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar) therefore this is quite an accomplishment.

WHO data on COVID-19 virus as at 21 Feb 2021

The effort required to close land borders with 5 other countries must be infinitely more difficult than securing a small island nation surrounded by ocean. With such limited resources, Laos has done a stellar job at enabling people to get on with their daily lives free from COVID-19. Economically the situation is a disaster with a significant number of people out of work with no income or Government support. The pandemic forced thousands of overseas Lao workers to return home, and at the same time, some domestic employers cut jobs after their businesses ran into financial difficulties. 2.57 million Lao are unemployed of a population of 7 million. In reality it’s likely to be higher. Most people are subsistence farmers so the impact on those working in cities has been more significant. Sadly it’s likely to remain like this all of 2022 and into 2023.

Life in NZ and Laos vs the world

I am not sure how oblivious people in New Zealand are to the plight of others overseas. From reading the media and people’s comments on Facebook groups, I am left with the impression that a portion of the 5 million kiwis at home think the 1 million kiwis abroad all pull large salaries in London and only rushed home out of fear of the mismanagement of the virus by most of the Western World.

The media portrays a certain perspective, but from my own situation and that of others I know, some people are in traumatic and desperate situations. There seems to be an inability for a number of kiwis to empathise with others needing to return home. I too am oblivious to what’s going on in the world at times. I hear stats etc but what’s it really like for some people living in challenging situations, with no ability to get home, perhaps with no money, depleted medication, no friends or family, mental health issues etc.

I count myself lucky. I would rather be isolated in Laos than in New Zealand even. That there are still 71,000 new cases a day in the US and 2,000 deaths’ a day I find difficult to comprehend in these modern civilised times.

The Laos lockdown resulted in the banning of flights as well. I was meant to return in May 2020. Back in March 2020 we thought the situation might improve around Oct or Dec 2020. Taiwan, Vietnam, Oz and NZ got praise for their management of the pandemic but the rest of the world hadn’t responded appropriately and it’s only now they are taking more serious measures. As a result Laos remained closed, and flights instead of increasing, stopped completely. With only the occasional charter flight available, often with no connecting flight and then the inability to get Quarantine space in NZ it was not possible to leave Laos.

I can’t image what it must be like to be living in the UK or US etc. I’ve been living free without many restrictions in Laos, the same as Kiwi’s in NZ. I still fail to understand how people in these desperate situations cannot get a MIQ space and yet thousands of others are (especially entertainers and sports teams). Since 5 Oct you have to pre-book a space online. As at today, there continue to be no spaces available in the MIQ system for the next 3 months.

I was going to go some yoga before lunch, as it’s been a few weeks. My fried fish and chips has just arrived. The Government certainly wants to keep me sedated. Check out my meal photos here!

My friend Leigh came to visit and bring me some supplies (keyboard and Chromecast). We spoke through the security fence about 4 meters apart with masks. It was quite difficult to hear each other at times!

After lunch I managed to do my yoga for an hour. I was able to Chromecast it to the TV.

Outside my level 5 window I notices people getting their exercise arouud the carpark,

I had to complete a health survey this afternoon and a few emails. I had a chat with my friend Ken.

Then dinner arrived. I may need to increase my exercise sessions!

Day one down, or is it day two? Tomorrow I’ll need to check when I am released. I heard today Auckland has more community cases so I hope they don’t shut the region down again – or extend my incarceration.

My other COVID-19 Quarantine Days

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