May 24, 2022
http3A2F2Fcdn.cnn .com2Fcnnnext2Fdam2Fassets2F220111220328 01 hong kong government quarantine camp U2lMq4
Hong Kong (CNN) — When I first stepped onto a airplane departing from Hong Kong to go to my household in america for the vacations, I knew my return journey to the town wasn’t going to be straightforward. However I by no means anticipated a new coronavirus variant to seem and that I’d be despatched to the town’s government quarantine camp as a consequence.
Again in October, I was ready to endure a obligatory 21-day quarantine in a resort room when I returned to Hong Kong, one of many few locations all over the world nonetheless adopting a zero-Covid approach. To that finish, the town already had a few of the strictest border management and quarantine measures on the earth, even earlier than the emergence of Omicron.
On November 26, 5 weeks earlier than my return flight, the World Well being Group announced it had designated the newly found pressure first detected in South Africa as a variant of concern, named Omicron.
Omicron unfold shortly. By mid-December, the variant was detected in 77 nations and have become probably the most dominant strain within the US. Fears over Omicron prompted a recent spherical of travel restrictions the world over, together with in Hong Kong.
Three weeks earlier than I was attributable to fly out of the US, the Hong Kong government announced that it will impose the “most stringent” quarantine measures for vacationers arriving from the US after a traveler (sure, only one) examined constructive for Omicron. This meant I needed to spend my first 4 days of quarantine at a government quarantine middle as a substitute of the resort I had already booked.
Located removed from the town middle, Hong Kong’s government quarantine camp in Penny’s Bay accommodates individuals who have been close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 circumstances and those that arrive from high-risk countries from which imported Omicron circumstances have been detected in Hong Kong.
Not figuring out what to anticipate, I turned to the HK Quarantine Support Group on Fb. It’s a huge, crowdsourced platform with assets for Hong Kongers who journey abroad in the course of the pandemic. Within the group, there have been many posts from individuals who had beforehand stayed at Penny’s Bay.

The veterans advised suggestions like downloading my favourite Netflix exhibits and bringing objects like a WiFi hotspot, an extension twine, a great deal of meals, slippers and booze.

The primary day

I landed at Hong Kong Worldwide Airport on January 2.

After deplaning, I needed to current a QR code obtained after filling out a well being declaration type, confirm my cellphone quantity, acquire a quarantine order and get a nostril and throat swab.

Vacationers look forward to Covid-19 take a look at outcomes at Hong Kong Worldwide Airport.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

Then I was directed to an space the place I waited three-and-a-half hours for my take a look at consequence earlier than I might choose up my baggage and get into a van that took me and 5 different passengers to Penny’s Bay.

On our approach there, the van drove by means of the doorway of Hong Kong Disneyland, which the quarantine middle is mockingly positioned subsequent to.

After driving by means of a set of inexperienced gates, the van handed rows of colourful two-story buildings that appeared like stacked delivery containers earlier than dropping us off at the reception desk. Employees sporting blue disposable caps and robes, face shields, masks and gloves — who’re referred to as the “Blue Meanies” by some inmates — assigned me to a unit.

The “Blue Meanies” at reception have been all pleasant and good (a lot for the nickname), however additionally they jogged my memory that if I broke the quarantine order, I could be subject to a most imprisonment of six months and a high-quality of $25,000 HKD (about $3,200).

Employees wearing full protecting gear sit behind a reception desk at Penny’s Bay.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

Life in government quarantine camp

My room at the camp jogged my memory of my outdated faculty dorm room. It got here with two single beds with skinny mattresses, a exhausting sponge pillow and a cover, two small tables with a small tv, an electrical kettle, a hair dryer, two folding plastic chairs, a cloth closet, a bedside desk, an air conditioner and a water heater.

I was allowed to open my window to retrieve meals and different requirements that have been delivered, or simply to get some recent air. Three meals have been offered each day in plastic baggage (within the morning, afternoon and night) and have been left on a tray exterior my window for me to gather. By means of that very same window, employees members swabbed my nostril and throat as a part of the each day Covid-19 testing necessities.

The camp has a whole capability of three,416 items, based on data from Hong Kong’s Centre for Well being Safety (CHP). There have been a whole of 16 rooms in every constructing, eight rooms on every flooring.

As of 9 a.m. native time on January 4, when I was on my third day there, nearly 1,300 folks have been occupying 995 items at the camp, based on the CHP.

My room at the quarantine camp jogged my memory of my outdated faculty dorm.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

When I checked in, I was given a menu with 4 meal choices: Chinese language, Western, vegetarian and smooth meals. I selected Chinese language for many of my meals, however the instruction on the menu warned that I will solely begin getting my chosen meals two days after submitting my choices. To my shock, although, the choices started arriving nearly instantly.

That mentioned, they have been like bland airplane meals, and I was caught with them as meals supply firms like Deliveroo or Foodpanda don’t service the camp. Employees additionally delivered water bottles, trash baggage and fruits to my room. In case I wanted extra of the camp-provided objects like on the spot noodles or towels, I was given a quarantine middle hotline quantity to name and a quantity to textual content on WhatsApp, however this stuff did take time to be delivered.

A employees member delivers meals in plastic baggage to people who find themselves in quarantine at the camp.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

It was doable to get objects dropped off by household or associates, nevertheless it wasn’t straightforward. In an effort to get care packages, the deliverer needed to apply for approval both 24 hours prematurely with a full record and pictures of things, or they needed to fill out a type upon arrival. Objects like alcohol and cigarettes have been prohibited.

The room additionally bought fairly noisy when employees delivered meals and different necessities to my neighbors, staff wheeled carts and dumpsters exterior, vehicles drove by the buildings and airplanes flew over.

My mattress was very skinny, so I positioned the one from the opposite mattress on high of it. They have been lined with plastic wraps and made a sound each time I moved. My toes additionally touched the mattress body when I slept — and contemplating I’m solely 5 toes 5 inches (165 centimeters), I can’t think about what it was like for taller folks.

Mattresses offered at the camp have been very skinny and lined with plastic wraps.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

On my final day there, well being staff got here by within the morning to check me for Covid. After getting swabbed, I needed to wait within the room till the Well being Division knowledgeable the camp that I was cleared to be transferred to the resort I booked. Then I needed to wait once more till a employee got here by to inform me I might come out of my room, try and get in line for my assigned van. Employees helped me load my baggage to the van, which took me to my resort for one more 17 days of quarantine.

However total, except for having to eat monotonous airplane meals, sleep on an uncomfortable mattress and fear about one among my each day Covid-19 exams coming again constructive, my keep at Penny’s Bay wasn’t as unhealthy as I anticipated. Granted, I solely stayed there for 4 days, not like close contacts of Covid circumstances who must spend 14 days (previously 21) at the camp.

Last reflections

Such stringent measures appeared like a worthwhile value of residing in a Covid-free city with no domestically transmitted coronavirus circumstances for almost three months. That streak broke in late December when authorities confirmed two domestically transmitted circumstances of the Omicron variant linked to a Cathay Pacific aircrew member.
The person was one among 4 Cathay staff discovered to have violated a three-day dwelling isolation rule imposed on aircrew getting back from abroad flights, displaying that even with strict Covid-19 containment insurance policies, one loophole can result in an outbreak, particularly with the highly contagious Omicron variant.

As loopy because it sounds, by some metrics I felt fortunate.

Simply three days after I arrived, Hong Kong banned inbound passenger flights from eight nations for 2 weeks, together with the US.

The value of getting in was excessive. From the price of my quarantine resort and the misplaced lease for my condo, to extra baggage charges to carry needed objects for quarantine, these bills shortly added up.

And it’s not solely in regards to the cash.

The time I misplaced from being confined and the toll on my bodily and psychological well being and my social life are immeasurable. Furthermore, the worth isn’t happening any time quickly, and I’m undecided what number of extra occasions I can afford it.

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