Family trapped in luxury Auckland hotel for quarantine

The Booth family. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
The Booth family. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
A family of five are trapped in a luxury waterfront Auckland hotel where they've been placed for a mandatory two-week quarantine.

With three rooms between them at SO/ Auckland, the Booth family of Wellington is provided three meals daily, free wi-fi, laundry services and fresh linen - with the Government picking up the entire tab.

Rachael Booth said they arrived in New Zealand from a holiday in Rarotonga on Saturday and felt extremely fortunate about where they had been placed into self-isolation.

"Me and my husband are working from our rooms because there's nothing else to do all day but the kids are getting a bit bored," Booth said.

"Everyone is obviously in the same boat but we're very fortunate to be where we are - it's all covered and it could be a lot worse."

Some people face forced quarantine in shoebox motel units or even camper vans, with one incoming traveller describing his South Auckland hotel stay as "prison-like".

But Booth said the hotel staff had been great throughout the their stay, constantly supplying linen and even getting the laundry done for them.

Each day they were given a meal plan for the next day with two dishes to select from for the upcoming three-course meals.

Most people would welcome a prolonged stay in a fancy hotel free of charge - but the Booth family just want to get home.

She also stressed that the family had no say in where authorities decided to house them for the enforced quarantine.

"It's taken right out of your hands," Booth told the Herald.

"You just come off the plane and you're escorted away. You have no option to do anything unless you have your own vehicle at the airport.

"We were expecting to go into a bloomin' motorhome ... we were just really lucky."

SO/ Auckland would not comment on how what it usually charges for the rooms where the family are staying.

The New Zealand Herald has put questions to the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment about how many Kiwis are being housed in luxury hotels and what criteria is used to assess who is quarantined where, but is yet to receive a response.

Since the coronavirus lockdown came into force, new rules meant anyone returning to the country needed to self-isolate in the city where they arrived.

Those without self-isolation plans in those cities were taken to hotels or campervan parks, which had sprung up in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Travellers would be placed in "local low-level" quarantine accommodation for the two weeks, according to the Ministry of Health website.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more than 1000 people had been put in supervised accommodation since arriving in New Zealand.

At Auckland's ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane, more than 100 campervans are set up in the car park as a precaution if people had nowhere to self-isolate.

In Manukau, South Auckland, Central Otago man Adam Royter was spending his quarantine at Ramada Hotel, posting on social media that his new digs were "a bit prison-like".

Shingo Suematsu, who also recently returned from Australia was staying in a Manukau hotel as well, there was a lack of explanation about when and how he could be reunited with his family.

The Booth family flew to Rarotonga before New Zealand entered its alert level 4 lockdown last week.

After arriving in Auckland on Saturday, they planned to fly to Wellington but were told they were unable to and would be quarantined in the city.

Instead, the family of five were cleared at Customs and escorted on to a bus along with other travellers and taken to SO/ Auckland.

"Once we got on the bus, that's when they told us where we were going," Booth said.

"You came off [the plane] in small groups and were taken through Customs. As we came out into the arrivals hall there were police there.

"They asked if we have a plan and I said, 'No, we're hoping to fly back to Wellington'. We were escorted straight outside to the bus."

They had their temperatures checked twice, once after getting off the plane and again once they arrived at the hotel.

SO/ Auckland's lobby had been rearranged to cater for Ministry of Health staff, NZ Customs staff and general inquiries about the hotel.

In a statement, SO/ Auckland and Accor NZ said it was working alongside the Ministry of Health in providing support for those needing to self-isolate.

"Our hotels are implementing additional hygiene procedures, including the frequent cleaning and disinfectant of high touch areas," they said.

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