When chef and restaurateur Umberto Bombana was ordered into quarantine in Hong Kong last month, he went prepared: the Italian took with him a suitcase packed with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, dried sausages, olive oil, instant coffee and Japanese noodles. “Maybe for the Western palate some people get bored, but every day you get steamed rice, so one day I put some cheese and olive oil, another day with spice and sun-dried tomatoes,” he says of the two weeks he spent in a repurposed holiday camp in Lei Yue Mun, Chai Wan, at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island. Although previous occupants of the quarantine centre have complained about the quality of food served there, “it’s actually not so bad,” says Bombana, who was sent there because six of the staff at three-Michelin-star restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana contracted Covid-19 late last month. He passed the time by listening to history lectures on his iPad, watching films, bouncing a tennis ball on his racket and calling his friends around the world. “I called New York, Los Angeles, Italy. Everyone is in the same situation, but it’s not as drastic as in Hong Kong where they take you away,” Bombana says, quickly adding that putting people into quarantine is a good way to prevent further spread of the virus. “A lot of people have suffered and some have died, so for me to stay in quarantine for a few weeks is no big deal. I think they don’t ask too much,” Bombana says of his two weeks’ confinement. His room was on the ground floor so he was able to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air during the day. When Hong Kong chef Umberto Bombana got Madonna’s order wrong Bombana, who left quarantine on December 11, says the moment he found out one of his chefs had tested positive for the coronavirus on November 27, he felt shocked about how close he had got to the disease. “Before, it was someone else’s problem.” The chef in question had taken sick leave for a few days and took a Covid-19 test on November 26. The decision was made to immediately shut down the restaurant to protect the health of employees and, following the city’s Centre for Health Protection’s directive, all the staff were tested. From there, five more people tested positive – four servers and another chef . Bombana says the restaurant contacted all the customers that had dined at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana from November 15 to 26 and advised them to get tested. Many called him personally to say they had tested negative. The first batch of staff were sent to quarantine on November 29, and the second group went the following day. Bombana was part of the first group. While everyone was in quarantine, the restaurant in Alexandra House, in the city’s Central district, was disinfected and cleaned. Like everyone else in the restaurant industry, Bombana says this year has been financially tough because of the pandemic. “When Hong Kong only had a few cases, we had a few good months, but these days who wants to risk going out, especially the elderly?” Under restrictions imposed to slow the fourth wave of coronavirus infections in the city , restaurants in Hong Kong are currently not allowed to provide dine-in services after 6pm. He considered closing the restaurant for a few months for the sake of his employees’ health, but says it would have too much impact on the livelihoods of the 60-strong staff. Of the six employees at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana who were admitted to hospital with the virus, five have since been discharged and are recovering at home. All the staff who were quarantined have tested negative so far; they were being tested again on Tuesday.