HK woman in breach of coronavirus quarantine order by visiting Kowloon Bay office and attending Sha Tin business meeting says system is ‘waste of time’

13-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A woman who broke a quarantine order by going to her office in Kowloon and attending a meeting elsewhere in Hong Kong has slammed the anti-contagion measure as a “complete waste of time and resources”.

Teenie Chau, who asked not to give her real name, had last been in mainland China on January 27 before returning to the city via Taiwan on Saturday, when the government’s tough new system against the spread of the deadly coronavirus took effect.

Chau said she went out on Monday in a surgical mask while subject to a stay-at-home order for two weeks that she insisted she did not know at the time applied to her.

She had told city immigration officials she left the Chinese province of Fujian 13 days before returning to Hong Kong. Her understanding at that point was the 14-day quarantine period began the day she left the mainland, she said.

“I thought I only needed to stay home for another day instead of starting another 14 days,” said the 31-year-old, who works in the performance industry.

“For those returning from the mainland on February 6 and 7 [before the order came into effect], they don’t have to be quarantined but are they not more risky?”

The Sham Shui Po resident went to her workplace in Kowloon Bay as well as a business meeting in Sha Tin on Monday, when the order was in force. Chau said she wore mask while outside her home and told the two colleagues she was in contact with about the quarantine order.

The government’s quarantine scheme applies to all people entering Hong Kong from mainland China and those who have been to the mainland within 14 days of their arrival in the city.

Residents subjected to the orders will be confined to their homes for a fortnight, while non-locals must stay at booked accommodation or government-run centres.

Those violating an order could be fined a maximum of HK$25,000 (US$3,220) and jailed for six months.

Chau is among the 2,100 or so people who have been placed under home quarantine since the restrictions took effect.

Nine people were found during police spot checks to have left their designated premises, as of Monday afternoon. They included two residents nowhere to be found and now wanted by police.

As part of the enforcement, officials have been asking those in quarantine to share their instant locations over their mobile phones. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has conceded that requires the person’s consent.

By Monday afternoon, only about 500, or a quarter of those in quarantine, had agreed to share their live location with officials via WhatsApp or WeChat.

Chau said the quarantining process was lax, accusing health officials at Hong Kong International Airport of not inquiring about her specific arrangements, failing to check her identity card and taking down her surname incorrectly.

On day two of her quarantine on Sunday, she said all she received was a text message from a “government officer”.

She said it took another two days to verify that person’s identity with the Department of Health, and only enabled her phone’s location-sharing function on Tuesday morning. An officer then contacted her via video call to make sure she was at home.

“I’d just woken up and it’s embarrassing, so I only showed my forehead and some parts of the flat,” she said.

When she heard Lam say publicly that live location checks were only voluntary she immediately stopped sharing her whereabouts over her device.

City leader Lam on Tuesday urged those in home quarantine to cooperate, saying it was their “civic responsibility”, and warned them of the criminal sanctions involved.

“I understand sometimes it’s a bit difficult to stay at home for a full two weeks but they [those in quarantine] are doing a service to this fight against the virus, by staying at home,” Lam said. “I hope that they are not those who deliberately refuse to comply.”

Chau however felt she should be exempt because she had not shown any flu symptoms in the 14 days since she had been to the mainland.

She said she attended a business meeting in Sha Tin on Monday before returning to her office in Kowloon Bay. Police called later that day after discovering she was not at home, but they did not issue a warning.

“Police agreed my situation is more complicated, so they did not ask me to go back home,” Chau said. “The Department of Health, however, did ask me to go home as soon as possible.”

By then she had already been away from her home in Sham Shui Po for up to seven hours. After being contacted by police, Chau said on Tuesday she had been staying at home and would continue to observe the order.

The Post has contacted the Department of Health for a response.

The lack of support from government departments had made those who lived alone like Chau difficult, she said.

No one had come to collect the rubbish, Chau added, nor had officials provided her with a thermometer so she could meet the obligation of taking her temperature every day.

“It’s not about little support, it is literally zero support, despite the person who monitors my location being happy to chat with me,” she said.

“The latest evacuation in the public housing estate in Tsing Yi tells us the government is already too late in closing the border, and the new quarantine scheme is a complete waste of time and resources.

“The government had more than two weeks to stop those infected from entering the city. It should be them quarantined, not me.”


Category: Hong Kong

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