Quarantined In Hong Kong? This Is Your Survival Guide!
Hong Kong is no stranger to upheaval.
Who would’ve thought that a year into the pandemic, vaccines on the roll-out and we’d still be dreading quarantine camps instead of planning holidays and parties. In January 2020, that would’ve been an inconceivable thought. But here we are, cluster after cluster is forcing thousands of residents into these isolation facilities with no end to sight!
Even though this is not the staycation you dreamt of, calls from the Department of Health to whisk close contacts away to isolation for 14-days are becoming a norm.
If you’re next, ’tis the time to curse out loud but quickly get a grip. Keep scrolling for essential info:
1. The Process
If you have been identified as one of the ‘close contacts’ of a COVID-19 positive person, the Department of Health (DoH) will reach out to you with that information and tell you to pack for a fortnight’s stay at an isolation facility, most commonly Penny’s Bay. You have no choice in the matter, failure to comply results in heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
Even though that call is absolutely unnerving! DO. NOT. FREAK. OUT!
Depending on the surge in local cases and the rush DoH is under, you get a tight window of two-to-24 hours between that call and your pick-up time by medical workers dressed in head-to-toe hazmat-suit. For someone who gets barely two hours notice, there isn’t a moment to waste on panic.
Give a heads-up to friends, colleagues and family – whoever you’ve met in the last two weeks. God forbid if you turn positive after testing at the facility, they become your immediate close contacts and will be headed the same route. A little extra time can help them prepare better.
2. What’s It Like At the Camp?
These hastily built temporary facilities for the COVID crisis are in the outskirts of crowded suburbs – imagine a large soccer field, basic rooms in neat rows, stacked on to each other. 24-hour surveillance in common areas, loudspeakers in corridors – open the door for air or step a foot outside and you get a loud warning!
Most of these camps have single or double-occupancy rooms with a limited capacity for family rooms. If you happen to land at a centre with littles in tow, demand, insist and keep pushing for a bigger room – the ordeal is mentally taxing as is, in a family room at least the children get other’s company!
You are provided with:
a) Basic bedding and pillows.
b) Two tables and chairs.
c) A hygiene kit with basic toiletries and broom, mop, bleach, dish washing soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, some utensils, a couple of plates and bowls.
d) An electric kettle, a wall-mounted TV screen.
e) Garbage bags.
f) Information booklets with health department hotline numbers, a thermometer kit for recording daily temperature.
3. What Happens When You Touchdown?
A shuttle bus will escort you from your residence to the doorstep of the camp. Ear temperature, HKID and passports details for children are taken; room details and meal boxes will be handed out.
Depending on the rush at the time of your arrival, you’re either given a trolley to carry your luggage or a volunteer helps you out with it.
You get three meals a day, with a food chart to select from the four choices – Indian (Halal included), Chinese or Western cuisines. Baby food is the fourth category – it’s suitable for toddlers who take soft meals. You can (theoretically) swap your meal choices as many times as you want during your stay but remember, the staff is inundated with work load, they take repeated reminders and a good two to three days for any change to reflect!
Nest Property Tip: Chinese meals are very, very bland. A good choice if you’re going for light, hospital-like food. Western has got mixed reviews. Indian (butter chicken, yay!) has been touted as a saviour by most! Good for a change but often spicy and a tad heavy as a regular meal. If there are multiple members in the room, mix your cuisines.
4. Packing Essentials – This Is About Survival!
More is more is the key here, guys! You will achieve nothing by keeping it light.
a) Keep clothes to a minimum. The absolute least amount you can bear with.
b) Fill your luggage space with FOOD! Toss diet plans and nutritional needs out of the window for two weeks. This is about survival! Packed groceries, pre-mixes, delicious perishables, protein snacks, fruits, bagels, cream cheese, cookies, pretzels, nuts, sauces, condiments – whatever you can think of, stuff it in. Trust us, you will need food to get you through this!
c) Booze. Plenty of it. Once you run out, there is no way, not a sneaky chance in hell to get a refill.
d) The centres have an on-demand snack delivery service but it’s mostly down to Oreos, juice boxes for children and cup noodles!
e) Coffee and tea bags. The centre keeps a supply of premix coffee and tea bags but it’s often rationed and we all know what a day without coffee looks like… just kidding, we have no idea!
f) Wifi egg or data card with unlimited internet and an old phone to serve as hotspot. If you have kids, download all their favourite cartoons and rhymes you possibly can at home. There is no WiFi at Penny’s Bay. Given its location in the outskirts, China Mobile coverage is sketchy, 3 and SmarTone offer a better connection. Buy a SIM card with unlimited data – you will need a steady connection of internet for work and entertainment.
g) Extension cords. Power outlets are limited and you need multiple sockets to charge all your devices.
h) HDMI cables, gaming console. Your room is equipped with a TV and an HDMI port – make every night a movie night!
i) Mattress topper, bedsheets, pillows and covers. This is no five-star; rudimentary mattresses are provided but for comfy winks, a topper and your own bedding can’t hurt!
j) Bathroom slippers. These are not provided and it’s not the most comfortable floor to walk on barefoot.
k) Yoga mats, resistance bands, basic exercise equipment. Not just for building physical strength but also for staying sane! Get two yoga mats if you can – they make for great day rugs especially if you are with children.
l) A rice cooker, induction plate and basic kitchen utensils. The camp provides an electric kettle but these come super handy if you’re looking to elevate your supplied meals and take them to another level of awesome!
m) Good vibes! Nothing good ever came out of being glum and gloomy. Allow yourself a sad, weepy day, curse out loud but get done with it. Life in quarantine is not the staycation of your dreams but it’s not prison either. Before you know, you’ll be be out in fresh air and headed home!