Letters | How exactly Hong Kong’s hotel quarantine is a waste of resources
- Daily testing during hotel quarantine expends resources and generates large amounts of waste with no guarantee of efficacy
- If properly handled, arrivals could quarantine at home and achieve the aims of hotel quarantine without putting hotel workers at risk
If the argument is that staff are not at risk because of quarantine logistics in the hotel, family members will also not be at risk if they properly conduct quarantine – leaving food at the door, disinfecting surfaces and so on – in a safe space at home.
If hotel quarantine is implemented to prevent importing Covid-19 cases, does it truly do the job?
The evidence suggests the best time to administer rapid antigen testing (RAT) is somewhere between three to five days after being exposed to Covid-19. Currently, incoming travellers are required to present proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before boarding, take another PCR test upon arrival, conduct RAT every day in quarantine and take a PCR test on Day 5.
Now, consider someone in Canada who tests negative before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, not knowing they were exposed to Covid-19. Hong Kong requires a PCR test be taken no more than 48 hours before boarding the flight to Hong Kong, and many laboratories have turnaround times of 24 hours for Covid tests.
This person almost certainly had to get tested one day before their flight to get the result in time. For the sake of argument, say they were exposed to Covid-19 the day before their test. If their PCR test upon arriving at Hong Kong airport is negative, subsequent home quarantine with a PCR test on Day 5 would still pick up a positive result.
Looking at all this, one can conclude that Hong Kong’s mandatory hotel quarantine policy is an inefficient use of resources. The costs imposed on travellers are perhaps a way to deter people from coming to Hong Kong rather than a measure to prevent Covid-19.
Katherine Cheung, Ho Man Tin