Coronavirus: dozens of Hongkongers fighting quarantine order allowed to stay in their flats overnight after 4,900 sign petitions for home isolation

10-May-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Dozens of residents fighting a quarantine order were allowed to stay at home overnight, after more than 4,900 people signed petitions urging the Hong Kong government to allow occupants of two housing blocks where a coronavirus variant was discovered to isolate in their flats.

The petitions were launched by occupants of the Royalton I in Pok Fu Lam and a block at Caribbean Coast in Tung Chung, with those from the latter, who are already in isolation, saying they were losing income and that the health of elderly residents had been affected. Students were also unable to take university admission exams, they said.

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“We are not disputing the quarantine request, we just want to be allowed to do so from where we feel the safest in our homes,” Royalton resident Jonathan Cummings said, adding he and several neighbours had sent a letter to health chief Sophia Chan Siu-chee asking for the special arrangement.

The Post has contacted the Food and Health Bureau for comment.

Cummings said authorities on Thursday afternoon told residents who refused to leave the building they would be allowed to stay overnight. Around half of the 30 households at the Royalton remained, he added.

Health authorities confirmed 80 of 120 Royalton residents had been evacuated as of 5pm.

In their online petition, Royalton residents said they were willing to be sealed within their homes for 21 days, wear trackers and share CCTV footage from the building with the Department of Health to ensure compliance with the lockdown.

It’s a nuisance to residents and a waste of resources to transfer so many people to quarantine centres

Christian Fang Xinshuo, clinical associate professor, University of Hong Kong

Dr Christian Fang Xinshuo, a clinical associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, said his family of four and their helper received their quarantine order late on Wednesday and were sent to Penny’s Bay quarantine centre the next day.

Fang said two others were loaded on a bus and he saw eight neighbours on another one.

“It’s a nuisance to residents and a waste of resources to transfer so many people to quarantine centres. Why not seal off the building so everyone can stay inside their homes? This could help prevent cross-infection during transfer,” he said.

The government said on Wednesday that residents of the Royalton would have to be evacuated after a domestic helper who lived there was discovered to be carrying both the N501Y and E484K coronavirus mutations, found in variants from Brazil and South Africa. About 110 people who were ordered to undergo compulsory testing returned negative results, officials said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, residents of Caribbean Coast, where more than 1,000 residents in Tower 11 of Carmel Cove are in quarantine over the discovery of a variant case, have also launched a petition that has garnered more than 2,100 signatures. More than 2,800 supporters signed the campaign for Royalton.

The residents argued that the decision for the evacuation was not based on sound evidence, disturbed the health and well-being of everyone involved, and was a waste of public funds.

The government was also discouraging people from being inoculated, they said, as fully vaccinated residents of Carmel Cove were required to undergo the same 21-day quarantine as everyone else. The residents also urged the government to allow them to quarantine at home where possible.

In a written response, the Department of Health said it had taken the stronger precautions of sending all asymptomatic residents of the buildings where the N501Y strain had been found to quarantine centres to prevent the variant from spreading further.

The Post later learned from a source that the quarantine period for close contacts who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 would be shortened under revised arrangements to be announced by authorities soon.

Infectious disease specialist Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan said the government should not be blamed for taking the highest precautionary measures in this instance, as it was unclear if there were any traces of the virus in the public spaces used by the helpers in those buildings.

Allowing the residents to quarantine at home, meanwhile, would also be a large operation, he warned, as the government would have to ensure it tested them for both the virus and antibodies, while ensuring no one left the building.

He agreed the quarantine period for those who had already taken two coronavirus jabs should be shortened.

Department of Health statistics show it currently has 4,649 units in four quarantine centres. As of 9am on Thursday, 51 per cent of those remain available for immediate use.


Category: Hong Kong

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