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COVID-19: Experiencing Hong Kong's quarantine - a day by day record

Jade Courtney is a 17 years old girl who recently travelled from Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow. She’s been kind enough to document her journey day by day for readers to learn more about quarantine in Hong Kong, along with some tips from her personal experience for fellow travellers.

January 2021 update:

  • As of January 23rd 2021, the Government will continue to restrict people who have stayed in extremely high-risk specified places from travelling to Hong Kong. This includes the United Kingdom.
    The 21-day compulsory quarantine requirement will also continue for people arriving at the city who have stayed in places outside China (Source: HK Government)
  • Click here to listen to our latest podcast discussing the expectations of the fourth wave in Hong Kong, the evolving new viral mutations and the outlook for immunization.


Coming back to Hong Kong

I am a 17-year-old girl who travelled from Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow and then from Heathrow to Hong Kong. I flew using British Airways (BA) and found them very accommodating. They clearly explained to me what to expect once I landed in Hong Kong and politely answered any questions I had. BA also helped to check I had all the necessary documents before I boarded my flight, making sure I would not be stopped upon arrival.

Day 1

I landed in Hong Kong at about 4:00 pm. From the time I landed at the airport to the time I got to the airport provided hotel was about six hours and the waiting time was something I was very unprepared for. If I could change one thing about the journey, I would have slept more on the plane because about three hours into the process I found myself running low in energy and was not in the best mindset to deal with the long lines and the constant checks that followed.

On top of security, there were people checking to make sure the health declaration form had been filled out and that the Stay Home Safe app had been successfully installed on everyone’s phones upon arrival. Helpfully, there were also multiple signs which told you when you needed to have something ready. The longest line was about a forty-five minute wait and was for checking COVID-19 test documents, lab certification, hotel confirmation, and to sign forms confirming everything that I had presented was real. Once I got to the desk at the end of each line, the process was smooth and easy. The COVID-19 test at the airport was unpleasant but quick and easy. You are given your own cubicle to do the test in and there are signs taking you through the testing area, which is quite spacious so social distancing is easy to carry out.

As a minor, I was required to wait until my parents signed a waiver before I could go to the quarantine hotel. Once at the hotel, I was given dinner and told to go straight to my room.

Day 2

I waited in the quarantine hotel for 14 hours before I got my test results back at around 12:30 in the afternoon. In my carry-on luggage I packed extra activities such as a cross-stitch project and a book so that while I was in the airport provided hotel waiting for my test results, I would be able to entertain myself. I found this was really helpful as the waiting stage is extremely tedious. I also added extra movies to my laptop in order to pass the time, though, there was a fairly good Wi-Fi connection in the government provided hotel. At 12:30 I checked out of the hotel and was moved to my official quarantine hotel.

In preparation for my quarantine, I packed my suitcase in such a way that when I moved from the airport provided hotel to my quarantine hotel (after a negative covid test), I was able to take unnecessary items and pass them on to my parents to take home. I did this using suitcase dividers so that I simply had to lift the unwanted bags into a trolley for my parents to bring home. I only had necessities in the hotel which helped to reduce clutter. When I left, this made it easier for me to keep track of my belongings and bring my main suitcase home.

The instructions for my quarantine were very clear and were repeated multiple times throughout my research, in the airport, and again when I got to my hotel. On the document you’re given upon check-in, there are clear instructions too, so there was no question about the process.

Day 3

Once in the hotel, I had a lot of problems with the wi-fi connection. The hotel advertised high-speed wi-fi but once I settled in it became clear that although I was connected, I might as well have had no internet at all. I couldn’t even log into my email to check on my school work. I would recommend setting up a data plan or something similar if, like me, one was planning on continuing school work within their quarantine period.

Having a stable wi-fi connection was also helpful as I was able to keep in contact with friends and family while in quarantine, the lack of social interaction is mentally draining and hard to cope with as it is, but in the few days, I was unable to call or talk to anyone I definitely struggled with staying motivated and on top of my routine.

Day 4

While quarantining, I came down with a throat infection, not unlike strep throat or tonsillitis. I am very prone to these illnesses so it was no surprise that despite my best efforts to keep myself healthy and calm, with the stress of travel I came down with a sore throat. While I knew there was a helpline available for those in need of emergency medical
assistance on the Stay Home Safe app, I was very familiar with the symptoms I had and knew I was not in immediate need of medical intervention.

My first step was to get in contact with my parents and explain the situation. As I do have a history with these specific types of sickness, they were able to get me the antibiotics and pain medicine I needed in order to cope with the illness in isolation.

Days 5-6

As a student in my final year of senior school, quarantine gave me time to catch up on studying and making notes that I otherwise would have struggled to find time to do. Much of my time in quarantine was taken up with doing school work. On top of this, I had planned an exercise routine using YouTube videos to make sure that I was staying active while in my

Having an exercise routine made my quarantine easier as it gave me a break from school work and provided a much-needed challenge in between my studying and movie-watching.

Days 7-9

Around a week into the quarantine, I started getting very frustrated with the lack of activities and the lack of fresh air. I still kept up my routine of studying and exercise, which helped to keep my days filled with some semblance of structure, but I definitely began to lack the motivation to bother getting out of bed around day 8.

As mentioned above, the routine really helped to keep me mentally and physically strong and I definitely feel like my time in quarantine was not completely wasted. I’ve had to quarantine three times now and I can say that the biggest problem I had was the feeling of wasted time. The main difference between the other two times I had to quarantine and this time was the fact that I was not at home.

Social interaction really helps quarantine but with no one to talk to I really lacked the motivation to get up and continue my routine

Days 10-11

One of the things I was glad to have prepared in advance of quarantine was food I wanted to be brought to the hotel. It really helped that I was able to work out a system with my family so that they were able to stop by the hotel every other day and provide me with food that I genuinely enjoyed.

I’m quite a picky eater and I knew I would have trouble with hotel provided meals, so it definitely made my 14-day quarantine more manageable.

Around day 10 I really missed fresh food and my eating schedule was way off as I snacked throughout the day rather than eating 3 main meals. I think it was around this time that I realized how blended together my days had become.

On day 10 I had to take another covid-19 test that was dropped off at my hotel the night before. It was the same kind of spit test that was done at the airport.

Days 12-13

In the last few days of my quarantine, I spent most of my time preparing to take my things home and getting organized. My isolation had been difficult but I knew I wouldn’t have as much free time in the coming weeks so I tried to get as much work done as possible.

In the last 3 days of quarantine, I felt so much better than I had in the first days, I think it was the reassurance that I would finally see my family and friends that excited me so much.

However, I did go into a sort of waiting stage around day 12 where I kept checking the time and simply waiting for my days to end so that I could leave already. This made the last few days really drag on.

Day 14

On my last day in the hotel, I was elated. The waiting stage was still going on in my head so the day really dragged on but finally at midnight when I was able to leave I felt fantastic. I had everything packed and ready to go. Checking out was not a problem, I simply dropped my key card in a box at the door and left to head home. Overall my quarantine in
Hong Kong has not been without stress and difficulty. I was lucky to have been in similar situations before that allowed me to plan my time in isolation out properly so that I could prevent succumbing to the tediousness of quarantine as much as possible, as well as preventing feeling as though I’d done nothing with my two weeks.

In future, I would review the hotel I chose to stay at a little bit more. Mostly, I’ve had a pleasant enough stay but the wi-fi, for me as a student, was a massive con as I was still attempting to do some of my classes online.

Hong Kong has done as good a job as they possibly can with their quarantine process but it is impossible to not stress out over a few things here and there despite their best efforts. The hardest part of the check-in process was definitely playing the waiting game but once you’re in your hotel but the real challenge is keeping up your morale, something that is doable but difficult without a bit of prior preparation.

To learn more about the expectations of Hong Kong's fourth COVID-19 wave and the outlook of immunization, click here to listen to our latest podcast.

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Topics: COVID-19

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