Of all the Airbnbs in all of Auckland, I picked the one with a Covid problem


There are hundreds of Airbnbs in central Auckland. “This one looks nice,” I thought, “on … Vincent St?”

Of all the places, I chose to stay at the Vincent St apartments on the very day one of the block’s residents tested positive for Covid-19. Now I’m spending the remainder of my holiday in self-isolation.

The building is next to the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility at Grand Millennium hotel. When I arrived on Thursday, I watched many of those in MIQ sit by their windows, staring wistfully at the outside world.

By Friday afternoon, their faces had brightened up with excitement, as they watched the circus form outside our building. Reporters crossed live to their newsrooms while pointing at residents coming home.

We were their subjects and their backdrops; we were now the ones staring wistfully at the outside world.

As residents prepared to hunker down, a pop-up testing centre was set up in the building lobby. Over the building PA system, beamed into every room, “Tony from the Defence Force” gave instructions for everyone to get tested in the lobby.

Props to Tony for being chilled and low-key, in the most Kiwi way imaginable.

I’d already been tested earlier in the day on Healthline advice. The line at the pop-up testing site was long and slow as a surge of people went to get tested, but everything was calm – aside from the schoolgirls on a scooter who crashed into a rubbish bin nearby.

I’m currently halfway through Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell. It’s an account of the way people come together and do extraordinary things during disasters. The central premise is that it’s a glimpse of the society that we can have and the people we can be, when we’re thrown into a situation where we have to step up.

It really spoke to me, and has helped me understand the sense of inspiration I felt during the first lockdown, and of my experiences through the protests in Hong Kong last year.

Of course, I haven’t touched the book since I’ve been in isolation. I may or may not have watched 8 episodes of Warrior Nun on Netflix instead (if I did, I blame Covid-19).

Being a Wellingtonian, I have been one lockdown behind Aucklanders. My lived memory of lockdown was of the first one. It was an extraordinary event. Difficult, and a source of anxiety and stress, but also a source of inspiration and wonder at the fact that we were able to do it at all.

But to live through a second lockdown is to know that there might be a third, or fourth. What was a source of inspiration because it was a difficult thing that was endured is now just a difficult thing to be endured.

It’s a bit deflating, and there are no lockdown resolutions to do 20 push-ups or make sourdough bread this time around (I have a pot, a kettle, a toaster and some teabags, so “cooking” is going to be limited).

But as Kiwi NBA star Steve Adams said: “This is not Syria, mate. It’s not that hard.”

The testing seems to be done now. There are a few public health workers by the door, handing over food deliveries and making sure nobody comes in or out who shouldn’t be.

The little atrium garden is closed, as are all the common areas. One anxious woman is moving in today. Everyone else is presumably inside, watching the 2pm press conference.

It’s fine, it’s just what we have to deal with now. One episode of dumb TV at a time.

– Keith Ng is a data journalist at the NZ Herald.

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