If you’re worried about getting a Covid-19 test because of fears of going into quarantine, don’t be. Here’s what you need to know, to make one scary thing a little less scary.
The government’s decision to move community cases of Covid-19 into quarantine facilities has raised fears among some New Zealanders that might stop them from getting a test. They’re worried about what will happen to their families, jobs and pets if they’re moved into quarantine.
The coronavirus is scary and the uncertainty of quarantine might make it worse. With an assist from director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, we’ll try to address concerns and demystify what happens after you’ve received the dreaded phone call.
So, you’ve got Covid-19. What happens now?
After your swab returns a positive result, the wheels of public health will start spinning quickly. The lab that processed your test will upload the results directly to the national public health database, EpiSurv. You won’t be waiting days for your result. A public health unit will call you immediately.
Don’t panic. There won’t be any police pulling up at your door. No one is coming for your children.
The first step is interviews.
What will they be asking me?
First, people will check on your symptoms. Then health professionals, either over the phone or in person, are going to reconstruct your life over recent days and weeks. Where have you been, who have you seen?
The first question you’ll be asked will be the easiest of all: They’ll want to know who your family is, where you work and who your close contacts are.
“The move into a quarantine facility isn’t something that happens immediately. The first priority is to find out who the close contacts are, make sure that family, workplace and other close contacts are isolated, and then can be tested,” Bloomfield said today.
“There’s no van that suddenly arrives at someone’s house and carts them off. That is not how the process works, I can reassure people.”
Once the people who are mostly likely to have picked up a virus from you are mapped out, the conversation starts about what’ll come next. This can take a few days.
Why would I leave my house for quarantine?
The whole idea of moving people into quarantine isn’t so much due to a lack of trust as it is to make your life easier. You’ve got Covid-19. You can’t go to work, you can’t go to school, you can’t go shopping for food and other basics. To minimise the risk of passing on the virus to a friend or family member bringing you groceries you’ll be moved to a hotel where all that is provided.
It should reduce your stress about accidentally passing on the virus.
So who comes with me to quarantine?
It’s specific to each case, but it could be your immediate family. Keep in mind that a lot of the transmission seen in Auckland so far is within immediate families, so your partner or child might already have the virus.
As of today there are 163 people in the Auckland quarantine facility due to the community outbreak. Ninety of them have tested positive for the virus.
What about my kids?
There have been concerns raised within the Māori and Pasifika communities in recent weeks that families with Covid-19 will be forcibly separated and Oranga Tamariki will take away the children of positive cases. That’s not happening.
Your kids might be coming with you if that’s the best option. If they test negative, they could also go with other whānau if that’s what you’d like. The idea is to give you the power.
Here’s what prime minister Jacinda Ardern said about this last Friday after rumours began circulating online about kids being taken away.
“That is simply not how these arrangements work. We try and, as best as possible, keep people in an arrangement that works for their family, whilst also trying to keep their family members safe from transmission. So we really work through that with public health clinicians on the ground. So I just want to dispel any suggestion that anything forcible is happening in these situations.”
What about my dog?
No one is going to leave your dog at home alone. If you’ve got a friend or family member who’d like your dog (or other household pet), public health can make that happen if it’s possible. Otherwise, they’ll find a suitable arrangement.
According to Bloomfield, worries about pets are something many of us would have in this scenario and they’ve thought it through.
“These are exactly the kind of issues that the team works with people on, including their employment and making sure their income needs are met, that any welfare needs are met, some of them might have other family members who aren’t household contacts who they are responsible for and look after,” he said.
What about my plant babies?
Yeah, they’ll figure that out too if it’s important to you.
What do I need to bring to quarantine?
In most cases a van will come and pick you up at home and bring you to the Jet Park Hotel near Auckland Airport. There have been a few cases where “bespoke quarantine arrangements” have been made – translation: It’s just too hard to get you to a quarantine facility so the government helps set one up for you.
At the quarantine facility you’ll be provided with a room for yourself and family coming with you. Whether the rooms are separate, connected or you’re sharing a single room will really depend on your situation.
You’ll be provided three hearty meals and two snacks daily. Breakfast comes with coffee.
Your dirty laundry will be cleaned (and dry-cleaned), so you don’t have to pack for weeks and weeks. You’ll have satellite TV, wifi internet and daily health checks with a nurse.
Soap, shampoo and other basics are usually provided as well. If you need anything, the facility can get it for you.
And it’s all free.