For those of us on lockdown with roofs over our heads, duvets on our beds and a host of subscriptions to streaming websites, this time spent in isolation, while distressing, can at least be quite comfortable. For others who were caught out by the outbreak in less favorable locations the conditions have been, well, less favorable. Here are some of the strangest locations people have found themselves either being quarantined or having to self-isolate in to make you feel a little less despairing about being stuck at home.
The Diamond Princess earned notoriety earlier this year when an outbreak of COVID-19 ground its journey to a halt in the Port of Yokohama in Japan. The ship saw its first case when an 80-year-old embarked in Yokohama on January 20 before disembarking in Honk Kong five days later, where he visited a hospital and tested positive for COVID-19. On its next voyage, it was held in the Port of Yokohama after 10 holidaymakers on board tested positive for the disease. The illness continued to sweep through the ship from February 4 until March 1, when all guests and staff were finally allowed off the ship. While being stuck in a fully furnished cabin with room service might not sound so bad, many of the cabins are very small and some don't even have windows. Even if some businesses try to find novel ways to make your time onboard less painful, I think we can all agree the freedom to step outside (even if it is only once a day) is invaluable.
The same unfortunate tale played out on the World Dream, the Grand Princess, and is now playing out on board the cruise ship Zaandam destined for Florida, which had intended to explore the natural beauty of South America. As the cruise continued on its planned exploration earlier this month, more and more destinations were closing their ports. An outbreak of the disease later took hold on the ship, which has infected dozens and killed four people. The cruise liner is now desperate to be allowed back onshore. While there are plans for the boat to dock on April 1, local authorities are claiming resources in the area are already stretched thin and there's a debate playing out with the White House and Coast Guard as to where the Zaandam will be welcomed ashore.
An ice-locked research ship
An ice-locked Arctic research expedition had to be halted due to a team member on the project testing positive for COVID-19. The mission, called MOSAiC, had been stuck in ice since October 2019 when the discovery was made. Of the MOSAiC team, 20 had contact with the affected patient and all were made to quarantine for two weeks at home before being permitted to fly to Svalbard, Norway.
The team that has been onboard the ship since February of this year were due to swap with another research team in April but under the current circumstances, it’s not possible via plane. The project organizers are looking to arrange a rendezvous via a Russian ship to switch the teams over but as the rate of infection continues to spread the outlook remains uncertain. Your parent’s place might be cramped but at least its average temperature isn't -12.4°C (9.7°F).
A civilian contractor recently stepped onboard the submarine Orel, an Oscar-II class nuclear-powered submarine owned by the Russian Navy. The visit was part of a business trip and unfortunately, it was later revealed that the civilian had come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. As such, the entire crew, estimated to be around 100 people, has been placed under quarantine.
Elsewhere in the ocean, a host of submersibles carrying out important missions will have no idea that the pandemic is even happening. Bad news is routinely withheld from those working onboard ballistic submarines to preserve morale, which means crews currently coursing through our seas will have no idea of the situation that’s unfolding up top. “They won’t know,” said retired Admiral Dominique Salles in an interview, reports the New York Times. “The boys need to be completely available for their mission... Those who are at sea don’t need this information."
The Big Brother House
With exuberant policing seeing rather predatory drone use to stop people flouting lockdown measures, certain countries feel a bit like a police state right now. But nothing can top the degree of surveillance one household in Germany has been under as the pandemic unfolded. The cast of the 2020 German Big Brother TV show has been isolated in a contained unit near Cologne since February 6, with the last four contestants joining a month later, just days before the country reported its first death from COVID-19. After weeks of being blissfully unaware of the unfolding outbreak, the producers decided to tell them live on air. The contestants were told that their families were safe and given the option to leave, and with Cologne now having the highest concentration of cases in Germany it's somewhat unsurprising that they decided to stay. In an interview with The Guardian, Rainer Laux, the show's producer, said: “A lot of relatives begged the contestants to stay in the house. It’s the safest place in Germany right now: you are effectively already under quarantine."
And it's not just happening in Germany. In Brazil, where housemates entered the isolated container on January 26, the producers kept the housemates in the dark about the scale of the pandemic until recently, also choosing to tell them live on air. In Canada, contestants went into the house before mass gatherings were banned in early March and only first began to notice anything was strange when they couldn't hear the sound of cheering while a contestant was evicted. The producers have since told the house what's been happening, and has now ceased production. Australia is reportedly still going ahead with their series but both the Italian and Indian current series are due to end early.
An abandoned hospital
Three women from London, England, were quarantined in an abandoned hospital in Vietnam after one of their party flew from London to Hanoi on a flight that was later confirmed to have been carrying someone with the COVID-19 disease. The woman and her friends were tracked down in Hạ Long Bay by local authorities and removed from their hostel, after which their mattresses and everything they’d come into contact with was burnt. They were then kept in isolation while doctors waited for the results of their tests for the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen antigen. Once these came back negative, they were moved to an abandoned hospital to continue their isolation for a further 12 days. In an interview with BBC News, one of the group said: "We have a toilet but there is no shower. We do have a bucket to wash with and to wash our clothes in. We're actually quite lucky because we've heard of people in worse conditions."
Finding yourself isolating anywhere that isn’t home is of course a frightening experience, but we’ll admit it’s hard not to feel a little jealous of this one. A cruise ship in Australia is destined for Rottnest Island as an outbreak onboard has required them to make their way to a quarantine zone. Eight hundred Australian passengers from the Vasco da Gama cruise ship will be housed on the golden-sand, crystal-watered island just off the coast of Perth for two weeks. But on the island they’ll be joined by one of Australia’s most loved animals: quokkas. Quokkas became selfie superstars owing to their distractingly adorable faces, which appear to be suspended in a constant state of contentment. Oh, to be a quokka.