Flight and Quarantine Experience with Mak
What to Prepare before you Fly?
Coming back to Hong Kong from a low risk country, like Singapore, you would need to pre-book a designated quarantine hotel for 21 nights. And fill in the online health declaration form 48 hours before flight. If coming from high risk countries, you would need an English test results of your covid test. Requirement changes regularly so keep glued to the news and HK government site.
Tips on Choosing a Quarantine Hotel
There are 36 designated quarantine hotels by the HK government. Which one will suit your needs? Apart from budget and availability, I was also considering the following:
- Location - But you are not leaving the hotel, why is location important? Is the location easy for your friends to drop off care package for you? Any friends staying near your hotel to attend to your urgent needs or wants? Any good restaurants nearby for food delivery?
- Size of Room and Window - Needless to say to stay 21 days in the same room, you needed some space to feel comfortable. And window facing an open area would make you feel happier as well. If you can have sea view or green views instead of grey buildings right in front of you, choose the better view. Or even view of the street so you can wave to your friends will create smile on your face.
- Meals - Most hotels include meals in the package, so that you do not have to worry about getting your three meals. Somebody hates it and think they should have the freedom to choose what they want to eat. But I am happy to not worry about what I need to order from the food app. Just make sure to check with the hotel the source of your food? Is it from their hotel restaurants? If the hotels do not even have their own restaurant, do not expect them to provide good food for you. I heard of people having fried rice with preserved vegetable and salted eggs as their quarantined meals.
- Delivery - Not all hotels allowed food delivery or care package from your friends. As they want to minimize contacts or work. So do check clearly with the reservation staff before booking. I even went to extend to check whether they allow supermarket delivery before I book. And also whether allow 24 hours food delivery, as you may want a stick of curry fishballs at midnight before you sleep.
- Style and Theme of Room - You are there for 21 days, make sure the room is something you do not hate. 21 days may not be long, but you are seeing it 24hours a day for 21 days. You do the math on how long you be in a room you hate.
What to do once you landed
After landed in Hong Kong International Airport, it is as usual on the disembarking, but you get to move faster, as my plane only had 13 passengers. Once you are in the airport, you will be moved to the train to bring you to the satellite terminal, which is now an area for the covid testing and waiting area. This is so that Asia World Expo is now a site for covid patients. Arriving at the satellite terminal, you would need the following on hand, and they will ask for it repeatedly in different stations. Your mobile phone with the local Hong Kong numbers and connected to wifi or data, the QR code from the online declaration form, your hotel bookings, HKID card, and download ready Stay Home Safe app are all you need. I cannot imagine if someone mobile phone runs out of battery here, I do not know how he can go through all the stations. So after you have repeatedly show them your QR code and show them the Stay Home Safe App, they will verify your phone number by giving you a miss call. Then you move to another station to have your wristband tagged on you. And you use the Stay Home Safe app to scan your wristband to tag it to the app (you need data connection to get this to work). Then you move to queue to a station to get your quarantine order, which they need your QR code, HKID card, hotel booking confirmation (hopefully you have the mandarin name of the hotel for them to double verified that it is the correct one). They will give you self test kit for future use, and CU masks, thermometer for your daily temperature monitoring. And many other papers for your reading. Then get your Quarantine Order and move to the next station for the covid test. They will conduct 15 pax at one go, with cabin crew given the priority. Hence the wait maybe slightly longer, I was lucky to have the last ticket of the round of test. Everyone will be seated in their own cubicle while waiting for the trained personnel to come out to take your covid test. Waited a while before they appear, and first step is sanitize your hand, remove mask, and they will poke both your nasal, and second poke into your throat. As HK weather is rather dry, I felt it to be more uncomfortable compared to the swab test in Singapore where I also did the nasal test. With your specimen, move to the next station and drop it into a basket for them to bring to testing. Your quarantine order is still with you and move to next station and they will verify your quarantine order details again. They mentioned if there is any discrepancy in your details, you would not be release when your result is out. Then they will assign you a seat and you can take complimentary bottled water, biscuits and sandwiches. Find your seat and it is the start of your wait. Many people did not really remain at their seat and walked around calling their friends. You can feel free to visit the restroom, or go and collect more water and food when you need. There are limited charging points, but it is constantly available during my stay for around 4 hours. When the test result is out, they will match the quarantine order with your HKID card, then you can move to take the bus to the custom. Crossing the custom and collecting your luggage is same as previous, but you are doing it like 5 hours later than usual. When you are about to get out of the restricted area, they will direct you to a Government Coach area to take the provided busses to your hotel. There are total of 6 bus routes, and a staff will inform you on where to go which line to queue. Remember to take their handwritten luggage tag to tie to your luggage so they will end up in the right hotel for you. Due to low number of passengers, they combined the Tsim Sha Tsui and Central routes. And soon you will reach you hotel, and you need to show your quarantine order to check in. It is closed to 12.30am when I am in my room. I landed around 6.30pm.
Comparing to Singapore
Singapore did not need us to do the testing immediately when I landed So I was quickly transported to the hotel and I got my rest quickly. There were less hassle as the hotel is provided by the government on random assignment. There was no stress on which hotel is available for consecutive 14 days stay. And it is a standard pricing of Sgd2000 for 14 days including food. Food delivery and care packages from friends are allowed in all the hotels. As a Singaporean,I was supposedly to quarantine at home by default, however I decide to stay in hotel as to ease my mum the burden of looking after me. I submitted a request to the Singapore government, and somebody contacted me via whatsapp with a list of questions. After answering them and taking photos of my Singapore identity card, my request is quickly approved. And all these are in their system and surfaced to the custom as I was entering Singapore. So I was quickly ushered to a briefing on my quarantine in hotels. There were less stations to go through, and definitely less things holding on hands to keep showing the different stations.
Different Queues and Areas Needed
I feel there should be three different areas in the satellite terminal when we are going for our testing and registration. Cabin crew, though have a different queue from arriving visitors, but their queue is just beside ours separated by queue pole only. Cabin crew only needs to do 48 hours self isolation once the test results are negative. Hence they should minimize contacts with arriving visitors. And visitors coming from low risk or high risk countries should be separated. to reduce chances of transmission. Best would be different areas for different planes arrival. So there will not be cross transmission from one plane passengers to another. I do have my concern to take seat in one of the station after they had served passengers coming from what it seemed to be a high risk countries. And there should be minimum movement in the waiting area. each assigned table should come with the electrical source, so there is no excuse to move. We had people from other planes moving around in front of us. And all the staff working in the airport are not equally equipped with the same level of safety equipment. But I do have various levels of contacts with them.