Hong Kong residents revolt against Covid-19 quarantine camp

A photo from March 15, 2021, shows the Penny's Bay quarantine centre on Hong Kong's Lantau island.
A photo from March 15, 2021, shows the Penny's Bay quarantine centre on Hong Kong's Lantau island.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - It is becoming a growing fear in Hong Kong: Being sent to a spartan quarantine camp for as many as three weeks if a Covid-19 case is found in your apartment block. Now some residents are rebelling against the order.

The government allowed "dozens" of people to remain in their homes on Thursday night (May 6) after they resisted an evacuation order, the South China Morning Post reported.

Mr Jonathan Cummings, a resident of the Royalton 1 building in Pok Fu Lam, said he and some neighbours had sent a letter to health chief Sophia Chan requesting that they be allowed to quarantine in their homes, the SCMP reported.

Under pressure from Beijing, Hong Kong's government has taken increasingly extreme measures to prevent another wave taking hold in the city of 7.5 million. Residents returning to the city are currently subject to a two- to three-week quarantine stay in a hotel on a select list, unless they are coming from mainland China.

Most contentious however has been the policy of sending all inhabitants of a housing block to quarantine if a single case is found in the building. Last month, the government evacuated residents of a roughly 400-unit block in Tung Chung to quarantine camps even if they tested negative.

Eighty of the 120 residents of the Royalton had been sent to camps as at 5pm on Thursday, the SCMP said, citing health officials. The order to evacuate came after a domestic helper living there tested positive for both the N501Y and E484K coronavirus mutations, found in variants from Brazil and South Africa, the SCMP reported.

Apartments in the building in the south-west of Hong Kong island are available for rent at HK$68,000 (S$11,660) a month for a 146 sq m unit.

The government has faced pushback in other areas. Officials this week said they were reviewing an order for the city's 370,000 domestic helpers, many of whom come from the Philippines and Indonesia, to take coronavirus tests and get vaccinated if they want to renew their contracts.

Hong Kong has mostly suppressed the virus, with low or zero daily case counts, but has struggled to persuade residents to get vaccinated. Just 8 per cent of the population are fully vaccinated, despite the ready availability of such medicines.