A family with a young child at the check-in halls of the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Bloomberg

LettersCovid-19 in Hong Kong: putting kids into quarantine is cruel and unnecessary

  • If government officials wanted to show real compassion for families, they would allow vaccinated parents to quarantine at home with their unvaccinated children
  • Inflexible quarantine rules deter family visits overseas and will only hasten an expat exodus

I’m grateful for Hong Kong’s ability to control the pandemic. With our case numbers low, I can safely take my eight-month-old daughter to playgroups, giving her the socialisation she needs.

But because of the government’s extremely strict quarantine policy, she has never met her Canadian grandparents, and as time passes this is becoming harder to accept.
The government has been unnecessarily harsh in its treatment of children throughout the pandemic, and under their new “vaccine bubble”, this has only continued. Young children cannot be vaccinated, and as such the government insists they serve the entire hotel quarantine when returning from abroad – even though their parents could be eligible for a reduced stay. For high-risk countries like Canada, this means one parent must stay with the child for 21 days instead of 14, practically rendering their vaccinations irrelevant.

The government’s coronavirus website does not address this issue directly and many parents I know are confused. But, in an email, the Food and Health Bureau confirmed that unvaccinated children must serve the full quarantine. “For any minors to be quarantined, the Department of Health upon request would generally allow one of the parents to accompany their children to take care of them,” wrote a spokesperson.

More than 6,000 people including me have signed a petition asking the government to reconsider this policy. Our ask is modest: for children to quarantine at home for their remaining week. I personally don’t think this goes far enough.

Children play in a playground at a housing estate in Kai Tak. Photo: Winson Wong

If government officials wanted to show real compassion for families, they would allow vaccinated parents to quarantine at home with their unvaccinated children, full stop.


It’s unreasonable to expect a child to spend even one week in a single room. Adults can work on their computers, watch TV or lose themselves in a book. Young children and babies do not have these options. They need to get exercise, eat well, and explore their worlds.

Hong Kong coronavirus: children restrained to ward beds for safety and parents told beforehand, officials say

Regardless, an extended hotel stay is not necessary for young children, at least not according to one government adviser. Last week in a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, University of Hong Kong professor Ivan Hung said children should be allowed to quarantine for the same period as their families.

“We are asking the government to basically adopt the same policy for children who unfortunately have not yet been able to get vaccinated,” Hung said. “If their parents or their siblings have received the vaccine then they should be treated the same because they will have a family herd immunity.”

I hope the government listens to this logic.

If they don’t, they may see more expatriates like me leaving Hong Kong in the coming months. In an American Chamber of Commerce survey in May, 42 per cent of expatriate respondents said they were considering it. Of those, 49 per cent said a key reason was the quarantine system making it too difficult for them to travel and visit their families.

Nicole Baute, Mid-Levels