A guest in managed isolation in Auckland says there is a warm Christmasy vibe among staff and guests today.

Guardian journalist Elle Hunt.
Photo: Supplied / Elle Hunt

Guardian journalist Elle Hunt says people have strung up lights and decorations, and a wreath competition run by the facility is seeing inventive recycling of meal bags.

With the unpleasantness of her day-three Covid-19 test over Hunt was looking forward to Christmas lunch – of which there were an impressive number of options.

“After much consideration I went for the eye fillet carvery and then spent the next couple of days thinking about whether I had made the wrong choice.

“There [was] also turkey, there was a fish option.”

She is staying at the Ellerslie Novotel and said the food had been great.

Hunt is doing her isolation alone and while the staff have been lovely she expected to be climbing up the walls in a week.

But she felt lucky to be back in New Zealand after the Covid-19 situation in the UK turned grim recently.

“To be honest a catered stay in a hotel room alone is a treat compared to what a lot of my friends and colleagues are doing back in the UK at the moment.”

Musicians play some music for guests at Hamilton's Jet Park Hotel to cheer them up on Christmas.

Musicians play some music for guests at Hamilton’s Jet Park Hotel to cheer them up on Christmas.
Photo: Supplied

Hunt will be keeping an eye out for the Defence Force staffer dressed as Santa patrolling the perimeter fence today.

“I think it is for more the benefit of children than for me, but I will take any interests I can get.”

Last night, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) lit the Auckland Sky Tower up in yellow, and will again do so tonight, as a thank you for the efforts of border workers, including staff at MIQ.

It said while most staff were families with working over the festive period, this year was different because of Covid and they were owed that support.

Christmas in managed isolation facilities.

(From top left) a celebratory gingerbread man treat for guests, health workers at The Sebel, a defence force worker at The Rydges in Rotorua plays a festive song, hampers given to guests at the Jet Park Hotel in Hamilton, James Smith opens his present while in managed isolation, and Santa arrives in Christchurch’s MIQ.
Photo: Supplied

Today, MIQ facilies are expecting about 5724 returnees in 32 facilities.

“Staff across the facilities are organising a range of different festive activities and experiences for returnees, including special festive meals for Christmas day, Christmas trees and music,” the ministry said.

“We are encouraging returnees to create festive window art with whatever they have to hand. We are also planning several surprises for returnees to bring them some festive cheer.”

Guests at MIQ facilities were given a little kit to build their own mini-cottages for Christmas.

Guests at MIQ facilities were given a little kit to build their own mini-cottages for Christmas.
Photo: Supplied

Most facilities have had Christmas trees and decorations up for a few weeks, with festive music playing, a reindeer food station set-up outside for the kids to feed them the night before Christmas, stockings on the doors filled with treats, and festive photo competitions.

One MIQ facility also had local schoolchildren write generic Christmas cards for returnees and an ‘in-house’ Santa was rumoured to be onsite at one facility.

Some facilities are extending the festive cheer out to New Year’s Eve, with petit fours and a glass of bubbles to have at midnight.

Staff at MIQ in Rotorua's Rydges spread the festive cheer.

Staff at MIQ in Rotorua’s Rydges spread the festive cheer.
Photo: Supplied

Most are planning some special festive fare for Christmas, with cookies for children, special menus for break, lunch and dinner, ‘high-tea’ style lunch, picnic themed lunch and a complimentary glass of bubbles or sparking grape juice.

Menus will vary across the facilities, but returnees will be tucking into a variety of festive fare, such as roast turkey with stuffing; glazed ham, tofu and mushrooms for the vegetarians, and sweet treats such as pavlova with strawberries, mince pies and candy canes.

Guests are also reminded of mental health support tools and resources available to them while they celebrate away from loved ones.

Staff at MIQ in Rotorua's Sudima socially distance with festive cheer on Christmas.

Staff at MIQ in Rotorua’s Sudima socially distance with festive cheer on Christmas.
Photo: Supplied

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