1 Dec 2020
Free at last, Free at last
I recently returned to Hong Kong from Los Angeles, filled with trepidation about the mandatory 14-day quarantine I would soon be forced to complete. Problems began while I was in LA as I needed a negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours of my departure. That is a tiny window with almost no room for error, since the PCR COVID tests are more thorough than rapid tests, and take longer to get results back. It’s virtually a mathematical impossibility, and sure enough, the test came back after 72 hours had elapsed. I was denied boarding by the Cathay Pacific staff and so I had to stay behind and start it all over again. The second test results arrived just in time – about an hour before the flight, so as you can imagine, my nerves were shot.
Next stop: Hong Kong. When I arrived in HK, I was escorted by HAZMAT suited officials who led me through a labyrinth of stations, each with a different task. The first one checked my ID, the next my COVID report card, and so on. All in all, it took 90 minutes just to complete all the processing. The last step was a self-administered COVID test (spitting into a test tube.) I then sat in an empty departure hall, commandeered for this very purpose, while I waited for this COVID test results to come back. That took about eight hours, and having to sit in a plastic chair like that for this amount of time was no fun at all.
Clearly, some of my fellow travellers had either done this before, or were better briefed than I was on what to expect. The gal next to me had an air mattress so she curled up and slept for several hours. The fellow behind me had a tent (Yes! a tent!), which he pitched on the floor so he could catch some shut-eye.
Eight hours later, my results came back, and I was on my way. But before I was let go, I had to have a tracking bracelet and iPhone App installed so the HK health authorities could track me. So I collected my bags from the carousel where they’d been circling non-stop for eight hours, and took the Airport Express train into Hong Kong. Once there, I took a taxi to my quarantine hotel, where I was to spend the next 14 days alone in my room, with no human contact whatsoever.
There is a list of hotels you can select, and I opted for one in the middle of the price range. I’m certain that I’ve never been confined like this, in a 300 square foot room, no balcony, no windows that could be opened, and no sign of any fellow human beings.
Meals were left on a small table immediately outside the door to my room. Once delivered, the staff rang the doorbell and quickly scampered off, so I only caught a glimpse of them once or twice. I had loaded an entire duffle back with goodies from Trader Joes and that helped a great deal. The main things that kept my sanity intact consisted of my Kindle, a yoga mat, a laptop, Netflix and Hulu. Many make-work projects also helped keep me sane, such as an exhaustive deep clean of my emails folders, an update to all my usernames and passwords, and more Zoom calls that I care to remember.
I did survive, but I can assure you that I am in no hurry to repeat the ordeal any time soon.