Hong Kong — I woke to the sound of my fiancée muttering "f*@!" under her breath on Christmas Eve.
While we were sleeping, the Hong Kong government had announced that all residents of the city returning from abroad must now spend three weeks in hotel quarantine instead of two, at their own expense — effective Christmas Day.
We were supposed to return to Hong Kong from the United States in fewer than 48 hours. We had booked a hotel for two weeks to comply with the government’s regulation — which required travelers like us to purchase a hotel room even if they owned or rented a home in Hong Kong — but this new hiccup could prevent us from getting back.
What if our hotel couldn’t extend our reservation before our flight? Were exceptions being made for people who were about to hop on a plane? And, could we even afford to spend 21 days in a hotel room — financially, physically and mentally?
We needed answers. The Hong Kong government’s coronavirus website had basic information, but not advice and guidance from people who had already started dealing with this new reality.
So we turned to the HK Quarantine support group on Facebook, where people were already posting about their plans to deal with the new rules.
Borne of necessity
And Jessica Chong used the paper bags her meals were delivered in to make masks.
A helping hand
The thread of the year
The woman sitting in front of Anna Gong saw Jameson’s post when they landed and said she’d “make sure she gets off (the plane) OK.” She updated him with a picture minutes later.
Another poster said they helped her with her bags and let her cut the line for the saliva test she had to do on arrival. Someone else from the group spotted Anna giving her saliva sample and sent a picture to inform Jameson and the rest of the thread that she’d made it safely to the testing site.
'This isn't optimal'
While other major cities have already started rolling out Covid-19 vaccines, Hong Kong just approved its first vaccine for emergency use at the end of January. The first city-wide mass vaccination program isn’t expected to begin until the end of the month, after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Hong Kong’s conservative, risk-averse approach to the pandemic means that quarantine restrictions are unlikely to change until a significant number of people are vaccinated — meaning the HK Quarantine support group will remain an important resource for the foreseeable future.