The word “quarantine” derives from the Italian “quaranta giorno” meaning 40 days so I suppose I should be grateful that my Covid quarantine period is a mere 21 days.
I am now on day three of my 21 days solitary confinement, having just returned from the UK to my home town of Hong Kong. Sitting alone, jet-lagged, in my comfortable and well-equipped hotel room overlooking the busy streets around Happy Valley, I will have plenty of time over the next three weeks to take stock of my current predicament and make plans on how to pass the time without going insane.
The origin of imposing quarantine on people was to prevent the spread of that medieval curse, the plague, and similar tactics are being imposed to combat our modern day equivalent, namely Covid-19. This highly contagious and in many cases deadly and debilitating disease has been with us for far too long, approaching two years, and who knows how long it will be before we can get our lives back to a semblance of normality. It is therefore no surprise that governments around the world (which almost without exception say they are following medical advice and not political considerations) have imposed restrictions of varying degrees on social and business gatherings depending on their estimation of the threat posed to their particular country or region.
With the take-up of the Covid vaccine in Hong Kong lagging behind that of many countries, and the UK still recording a high number of daily deaths and new infections, it is understandable that returning Hong Kong residents from the UK and many other extreme-risk countries are being made to endure the harshest of restrictions. There cannot be many governments which impose 21 days quarantine on returning citizens who are fully vaccinated, have passed umpteen Covid tests in both countries prior to and after their journeys and, in some cases such as myself, have had positive Covid anti-body tests carried out in Hong Kong.
That being said, for a densely populated region, Hong Kong has coped remarkably well with the pandemic with so far relatively few recorded infections and deaths. So I guess the government has largely got its strategy about right and I should not complain.
But of course I do complain. To anyone who will listen. That is part of my coping strategy. I enjoy my own company up to a point, but three weeks is stretching out before me like a desert. However, on a more positive note I am determined to use my time productively and not spend it all watching Netflix. I also appreciate that I am far from being the only one in this situation.
Here’s the plan, believe it or not: I will exercise each day for at least half an hour (stretching, push ups, running on the spot etc), abstain from alcohol, read two books (already half way through one), get to grips with my new computer, do office work (we’re all familiar now with working remotely) and keep in regular electronic contact with family, friends and colleagues. Just imagine doing quarantine in the days before smart phones and computers and the internet.
Because of the modern ability to work remotely, wherever we may be stuck in these unusual times, we can nevertheless continue to run our daily working lives largely unhindered by the lack of personal contact. The word “Zoom” used to bring to mind the song by Fat Larry’s Band in 1982 but now has a completely different connotation.
The A-PASS office in Hong Kong (as well as the wider Capricorn Capital Group) has continued to provide a full uninterrupted service to its clients and will continue to do so. The end of Covid is in sight but the timing is uncertain. Whenever that time comes, A-PASS will be ready to meet the challenges of a rejuvenated Hong Kong and regional economy and to service the needs of its clients.
I must also add that my A-PASS colleagues have been fantastic in supporting me during my quarantine, ensuring I have everything I need and, most importantly, helping me still feel connected to the office and the outside world. I am most grateful.
A final word of caution to would-be travellers, especially returnees from the UK: take all the pre- and post-travel Covid impositions very, very seriously. Airline staff take personal responsibility for checking travel documents and are meticulous in checking full compliance with the requirements, down to the smallest detail. The airlines also risk being barred from flying to and from Hong Kong, as some already have been, if they get things wrong.These requirements seem to change frequently and with little warning. One should check relevant government websites regularly. I nearly had a heart attack when my pre-travel UK Covid test certificate was queried just as I was about to board the plane from Terminal 5 back to Hong Kong. My near crime was that the form omitted to show my middle name (the relevant application form had only asked for the “first” name and “surname”). Fortunately I was allowed on board but the incident served to demonstrate the importance of all names on documents matching exactly those shown on one’s ID card and passport.
Anyway, I’m delighted to be back and I look forward to stepping out into the real world just in time to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival!
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