Police called after family defies H7N9 quarantine order
Man tries to lead wife and son out of hospital despite isolation order, but is discovered in time
A family of three who tried to break out of H7N9-induced quarantine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei has been reported to the police, health authorities say.
The father, Tam Ming-wah, defied an isolation order issued on Wednesday after a girl staying in the same paediatric ward as his two-year-old son was confirmed to have been infected with the deadly strain of bird flu.
Tam, 50, and his wife were to be confined to one room, while their son, who was being treated for flu, would be confined in another room. All three had tested negative for H7N9 but the hospital placed them under medical surveillance for 10 days until March 13.
Tam tried to lead his family out at 7pm, after learning from medical workers that the boy was to be kept separately.
"I was having an emotional breakdown," he said. "All of a sudden, there was someone locking me up and separating me from my son. I was out of my senses."
The family was stopped by staff members. Now, Tam is confined to a room all by himself, while his wife and son are in another room on the same floor.
According to the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation, a person who escapes or attempts to escape from a place of quarantine is liable to a HK$5,000 fine and six months in jail.
The Department of Health and Centre for Health Protection released a joint statement yesterday saying "the government is very concerned" and that they had reported the attempted escape to the police.
The authorities said they would continue to provide the family with the necessary help and support during their stay.
Tam said he would accept the consequences of his actions, but accused the hospital of mishandling the case. "I hope there are other ways that allow the three of us to stay together," he said. "Our boy is so young and it is very lonely for me not to be able to see my family for so long."
He said the hospital should have detected the virus in the girl earlier and isolated her. Placing her in the same room as his son had exposed the boy to the risk.
The hospital said the girl had not been tested initially as she had no cough or infection at the time and because her family said she had not come into contact with birds.