I hear American media are discussing “NZ COVID Camps” – and since I’ve seen one I thought I should weigh in.

This photo shows a COVID camp in downtown Christchurch: the Crowne Plaza. People who enter New Zealand stay at four-star hotels like this. I’ve previously stayed at several of the hotels being used for MIQ and they’re all about this calibre. (To be honest I’m a bit frustrated they’re being used for managed isolation because I can’t stay in them!) If you are traveling alone you have a room of your own; if you’re traveling with people you can share a room or a suite.

This hotel is being used for managed isolation. People staying at the hotel are tested for COVID on day 3 and 12. If they test positive, they are moved to a different four-star hotel that is specifically being used for people who have COVID. (In the rare cases where people have contracted COVID that are not travelers, they’re usually moved to the same facility.) At that hotel, they get medical care, food, etc. etc. If they have a severe case, they are transferred to the hospital. They’re taken care of until they get better.

Lots of people coming in Tweet or Insta their stay, so there’s a great deal of inside information! Guests get three meals a day which are usually made by the hotel kitchen staff. They’re very good about working with dietary restrictions. And if you want snackies, you can order them for delivery. You can also buy things like: Playstations! Laptops! Clothes! You can have anything you like delivered to you, except alcohol.

For the first several months the government bore the full cost of managed isolation; now they split the cost with returning Kiwis. (It’s USD$2K for the first person in the traveling party; there’s a small supplemental cost for each person in the family unit.) For people who have COVID and are in quarantine or in hospital until they get better, there’s no additional fee. Because there’s no additional fee, and people aren’t charged for a COVID test, people are more likely to get tested and get treated. They know it won’t bankrupt them. New Zealand places a high priority on the health of its citizens.

(And not just for COVID. I met a man who lived in an extremely rural area and had a heart attack. He was helicoptered out, the paramedics did telemedicine with a coronary specialist in Wellington who could access all his medical readings, he was helicoptered to a second hospital for heart surgery, and now he is fine. Total cost to him? $90, for medication.)

This is the main sstrategy that is keeping New Zealand COVID-free. It can be hard for people here to realize how bad things are in other places, because people here aren’t getting sick. In fact, New Zealand had an unusually low death rate this winter because there was no influenza to speak of. Life in New Zealand is, in almost all respects, normal.