Testing times, a Praying Mantis and a countdown to freedom in the Interim Quarantine Bureau

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good

– Feeling Good (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse)

20 August

It’s dusk on Day 13 at my Interim Quarantine Bureau at the outstanding Kerry Hotel. Not that I am counting but as I write there are 28 hours and 40 minutes to go before I am a free man.

My last Blog detailing my descent into a kind of quarantinal (my new word for 2021) madness seems to have touched a chord. I didn’t realise how many others in the travel retail community, and outside it, were going through – or have been through – the same experience. That may explain the 55,989 (and rising fast) views on LinkedIn of my training regime for the Modern Quarantine Pentathlon, together with some very good responses and captions (see below).

Apart from ensuring the insomniac status of the website that never sleeps; maintaining my quarantine pentathlon training regime; and answering the door Pavlov’s dog-style to receive my three times a day food containers, there aren’t too many things to look forward to in the daily routine by the second week of confinement.

Praying Mantis (Photo: Yulim Productions)

Aside, that is, from the joy, the sheer bliss, of watching the All Blacks beat the Wallabies last Saturday via subscription on my laptop. But even that was marred by the untimely arrival of the COVID testers mid-way through the first half.

“We’re here for the test,” said a woman in full PPE, who at first sight looked like a giant Praying Mantis.

“So am I,” I replied lamely. “The All Blacks are ahead 16 to 8.”

I am not sure whether the stare from behind the facemask betrayed a lack of understanding or simple annoyance. In any event I duly opened my mouth, flared my nostrils, and got the necessary irritation of the nucleic acid test out of the way.

I’ve since had one more (yesterday) and I’ll have two more post-release next week, bringing my grand total to 14 tests, around 21 nostril intrusions and an estimated 10 throat swabs. That’s what you call data analytics COVID-19-style.

21 August

But each and every one of those tests will have been worth it. The world is locked in a very mortal combat with the coronavirus and we should never forget that. Equally we should never forget that (as of this moment) 4,426,547 people have died from COVID-19. And many more will in the future.

As mentioned in my last Blog, national philosophies seem to be divided between a ‘learn to live with it – head towards herd immunity’ mentality and the uber-strict controls of, say, New Zealand and China.

Hotel COVID-19 testing (Photo: Shutterstock)

And even then, as witnessed in the former, my home country, over recent days, this particularly nasty genie can escape the bottle. The same happened in China with the recent outbreak that began in Nanjing. Both governments duly responded with speed – lockdowns, tracing and mass testing all part of the race to stop the spread.

China has succeeded admirably. On 13 August imported COVID-19 cases overtook locally transmitted infections – the first time the balance had been skewed since the latest Delta variant outbreak took hold. Yesterday, just five local cases were reported, compared with 41 imported. Impressive. Importantly, no new cases have been reported in Hainan since 5 August and on Thursday the island home of the offshore duty free was officially declared a ‘low-risk’ zone. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the travel retail industry both in China and around the world.

While I will be delighted to escape my confinement, I must confess to having developed quite an affection for my Interim Bureau overlooking Victoria Harbour. I guess it’s a kind of quarantinal (there we go again) version of Stockholm Syndrome. Let’s call it Kerry home Syndrome. As noted, Kerry Hotel has been fantastic and despite the relentless daily routine, the overall experience anything but a hardship. Today, several hours in advance of the midnight release, I received a delightful ‘Certificate of Completion’ from General Manager Andrew den Oudsten, including a QR code that led to the farewell video below. Nice, nice touch, Andrew.

Soon after daybreak in my Interim Quarantine Bureau and the sun casts a golden light on the Central Building and all the way across Victoria Harbour

I’ve decided to go out in style. Last night we opted against the standard quarantine fodder, ordered from room service and enjoyed a comparative tasting of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from New Zealand and Durbanville Hills The Cape Mist Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from South Africa. A kind of vinous All Blacks v Springboks showdown.

As mentioned on my last Blog, the Durbanville Hills was courtesy of Harry Kartasis from Global Drinks Limited here in Hong Kong. The Cloudy Bay was a delightful surprise kindly sent to my room by Moët Hennessy Managing Director Travel Retail Asia Pacific Vanessa Widmann who had spotted an earlier Blog showing me buying my quarantine essentials (pictured below) in the wines & spirits department of Shinsegae Duty Free at Incheon Airport before departing for Hong Kong and figured (correctly) that I would have depleted my supplies by now.

And the result? Well, biased as I may be towards all things Kiwi, I have to declare it an honourable draw. The grape variety might be the same but these are two very different wines. The extra bottle age lends the South African wine stronger and more forward flavours – a grassy, gooseberry nose and a surprisingly full and rich tropical fruit structure. Citrusy, zesty and delicious with a finish as long as Springboks ace Morné Steyn’s kicking range. Lovely wine.

With Cloudy Bay you just know what you are going to get – a lovely crisp freshness both on the nose and palate, lots of citrus flavours (limes and lemons but most of all I always think grapefruit when I drink Cloudy Bay) and a clean finish full of minerality. My Shinsegae Duty Free bottle was the 2017 vintage and it was interesting to see the very considerable flavour transition with bottle age to a much richer, more gooseberry character but still with its trademark freshness.

Whatever the vintage, there’s just something so tempting about the sight of a well-chilled bottle of this great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the coolness of the fridge manifesting itself like tears on the green bottle with its beautifully understated white label.

So tempting in fact that I have just put another bottle in the fridge for the final quarantine dinner. As I finish this Blog there are now 10 hours and 30 minutes to freedom. Hong Kong here we come.

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