Updated: Feb 28
On Dec 25th, 2020, the Hong Kong SAR government declared that all overseas travelers must prove that they had purchased and confirmed a 21 day mandatory hotel quarantine stay, in order to board a flight to Hong Kong.
Thirty six hotels were designated as quarantine hotels, charged with implementing complicated logistics involving secured ground transportation, as well as strict procedures for cleaning, food delivery, mandatory testing schedules and managing guests’ lock up experience.
My husband and I had been tested for COVID infection within 72 hours in order to be allowed to board our flight at LAX. And we had to undergo testing again upon arrival. I had not been experiencing any symptoms all along, but will admit that my nose was feeling a little tender and brutalized after the second test.
My condition was definitely made worse by having to sit in the freezing cold HKG airport holding area for passengers waiting 3+ hours for test results. I will say that the airport staff did what they could with limited resources such as dry sandwiches and water bottles - they even kindly offered me hot water and a light blanket.
After checking in to the hotel, we were escorted to the elevator door by hotel staff. The hotel staff were not allowed to handle our luggage, nor even to enter our rooms for the entire stay.
They had stocked us with a set each of plate plus utensils, extra towels, dishwashing detergent with sponge, laundry detergent, toilet paper and tissue. Our tiny minibar fridge was empty, and there was an electric hotpot with some instant coffee and creamer packets, along with a case of small bottles of water. Nespresso coffee was available for rental fee, as were game consoles and exercise equipment.
Having purpose and structure to my days made all the difference between feeling lame and depressed, and being happy and fulfilled
No visitors were allowed. We could receive deliveries, but could not send anything out from the hotel room to be picked up, not even signed documents.
The government had tagged us with an electronic tracking bracelet, which seemed unnecessary since we were already locked up in the hotel. But they were very clear that removal of the tracker would result in dire consequences. The penalty for breaking quarantine would be considered a criminal offense, punishable by fine of HKD $25,000 (~USD $3,225) and six months in prison.
It definitely took some coaching work for me to wrap my brain around the idea of being 21 days in a hotel room. My husband and I love each of course, but it’s not easy to contemplate being stuck in a confined space, whether alone or with anyone else.
While I briefly considered binge watching Netflix all day in quarantine, I realized that there just wasn’t enough content anywhere that would be satisfying to me. I had learned for myself earlier in the pandemic that having purpose and structure to my work-from-home days made all the difference between feeling lame and depressed, and being happy and fulfilled.
I’m sure that many of you have come to appreciate what an incredible blessing it is to be able to work remotely and to stay connected. I’ve been impressed by how many patients are so much more relaxed when they are not having to travel around all the time, whether it is commuting into the office or flying around the world.
I learned a great deal about myself during this respite from “normal life,” enjoying it more than I could have imagined. I hope to carry forward some of the lessons learned and will of course share my work with you. My next post will focus more on the blessings part.
Detailed, up-to-date information regarding Hong Kong government travel requirements and restrictions, recommended testing sites and procedures for obtaining required paperwork for airlines. Includes crowd-sourced ratings on hotel experiences and workarounds.
Provides accurate information pertaining to all things COVID in Hong Kong. Travel section can be difficult to navigate because changes are frequent, there’s too much irrelevant information and documents are often presented in PDF format. Infographics are colorful but not too helpful.