Growing anger at Metropark Hotel
Grievances among people quarantined in the Metropark Hotel have grown and the government sent psychiatrists to counsel 'inmates' on their third day of isolation yesterday.
'We have all been exposed to each other,' guest Mark Moore, who flew into the city last week on a business trip, said yesterday. Food had to be collected from the lobby, he said, and initial health checks had been conducted in the restaurant instead of individually in each room.
The Englishman said the guests should have been isolated from one another if there really was a high risk. 'I suspect this is a largely a PR exercise for the government, trying to show the world how prepared and organised Hong Kong is ...,' he said. 'We should be allowed to go home.'
A Hongkonger, Mr Tse, who has been quarantined at the hotel since he went there on Friday night to visit friends from Beijing, said yesterday that the arrangements on the first day were chaotic as 'there was no food and not until we begged for a long time did we get some water'.
Although food arrangements had improved, he said, there were insufficient staff to clean rooms, clear rubbish and change linen. Some hotel employees have reportedly complained, saying that they were on call 24 hours a day while several staff members had to stay in one room. Only the 11th floor - on which the Mexican swine flu victim had stayed - had been thoroughly sterilised.
Director of Home Affairs Pamela Tan Kam Mi-wah said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department had stepped up disinfection efforts and mobilised more staff. 'We hope people will understand that this is an emergency and we are doing our best,' she said, adding that there was enough bedding for all guests.
Hong Kong Mood Disorders Centre psychologist Kathleen Kwok Pik said quarantined guests might feel anxious, irritated, helpless or bored.
'If they are very disturbed emotionally, they can talk to a psychiatrist,' she said.
Infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok yesterday said on RTHK's City Forum that the government should not have responded to this situation as it did to Sars.
He questioned why the government had quarantined all guests rather than just those who stayed on floors near the victim, and why it had not quarantined everyone on the plane on which the man travelled.
But University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung defended the government's actions.
He said previous studies had shown that it was hard for viruses to spread in an aircraft as air was filtered 20 times per hour, 4 to 10 times more frequently than in an office. As a result, only passengers who sat in the three rows in front and behind the Mexican needed to be tested. However, he said that there had not been enough studies on containment of viruses in a hotel environment.
'Now that we have an index patient, we can study his faeces samples and know more about the disease,' Professor Yuen said. 'If another patient arrives in Hong Kong, we will know how to change our strategy,' he said, adding that during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, one index patient infected 16 others in a Hong Kong hotel.