SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
November 23, 2020

My friend in quarantine: Inside the Stamford Plaza medi-hotel

Miles Smith fled London to enter what he describes as a comfortable prison well stocked with desserts. CityMag asks how he's keeping sane and burning pent-up energy in his short-term home.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Miles Smith


One of Miles Smith’s biggest criticisms of his $3,000 two-week mandatory stay in quarantine at the Stamford Hotel are the desserts.

“It’s just impossible to keep up with the sheer quantity of cakes they’re providing,” Miles tells CityMag.

“The food’s been pretty good, but if anything, it’s just been way too much.”

Miles says having plants in your room makes lockdown easier. He’s settling for fruit, for now.

When England went into the second hard lockdown of the year to curb the coronavirus, Miles, a music industry employee living in London, had to make a tough decision – either endure another round of hard restrictions, or attempt a voyage home to see his family.

“I had a trip booked with my mum in May, which kind of got interrupted by coronavirus, so that was going to be my chance to see her,” he says.

“And then the situation in London was getting quite dire. We went back into the second lockdown and I had two COVID tests within a month. It was feeling quite oppressive.”

On Wednesday, 11 November, the 30-year-old left his sharehouse in Clapton – a suburb located in the London borough of Hackney, which, according to the BBC, clocked in 509 new infections last week – to temporarily immigrate back to South Australia.

He purchased a £1,500 ($2,700 AUD) one-way ticket home and forked out $3,000 for a compulsory stay at a medi-hotel.

Upon landing, Miles had his temperature checked by SA Health, then collected his belongings from a carousel. He was then escorted to the city’s Stamford Hotel on a bus under police guard.

“The plague express,” Miles laughs.

Miles says he can’t complain about the kitchen, even considering its link to the South Australian lockdown.

“You get here and then you just get into this hotel room and they give you a bag of belongings. There are no washing facilities so… I wash my clothes in the bathroom sink.”

He describes the room as pleasant; there’s a giant window from which he can see the CBD. But it’s the daily structure he’s created within the room that makes the stay bearable.

Miles has established a solid routine: every day he wakes up at 7:30am, has a coffee, then at 8:30am is delivered a “pretty good” breakfast. He then does an hour-long workout, which is either running around the room or jumping on the exercise bike his dad delivered to him.

“I was trying to run around the hotel and do a 5km run, but I found myself getting really dizzy running around the bed,” Miles says.

“Now I’ve just been running on the spot.”

CityMag connects with Miles via Zoom on a Friday, when he’s halfway through his COVID-cation.

This is the same moment South Australians were in the midst of our own hard, but ultimately short-lived lockdown.

Throughout our chat, Miles sounds grateful for being able to return to Australia, as the risk of catching the coronavirus in London was high. He’s also appreciative for a mostly pleasant stay in quarantine, as these 14 days ensures South Australia stays safe.

Exercising and new habits help pass the time.

His London workplace has also been exceptionally accomodating, allowing him to do his job from another continent.

While Miles’ holiday may have been, so far, an agreeable experience, there is a daily reminder of the surveillance he and everyone else quarantining at the hotel is living through.

At the beginning of our phone call, before our interview commences, there’s a knock on Miles’ hotel room door.

“There’s usually one knock a day,” Miles explains. “[Employees] just come to your door and just check that you’re you.

“The guy is like, ‘What’s your full name?’ And I’m like, ‘Miles Smith’. I don’t know what it’s about.”

Visit SA Health for more information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our sister publication InDaily for news updates. If the COVID-19 news cycle is affecting your mental health and wellbeing, call the SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line on 1800 632 753.

Share —