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I’m a (nearly) free man of Hong Kong. The first part of my ‘3+4’ mandatory quarantine – the hotel part – is over and like a stylish old-time golfer headed for the links I’m into my plus-fours, albeit at home.
Given that we have a rooftop and a view here in Discovery Bay that every day I wake up to it makes me feel happy about my existence, I cannot complain. Besides, I am allowed out, just not into certain high-risk places (bars and restaurants, or… ahem… barber shops, for example), excluded by my amber pass status.
The current regime – which was set to be eased further until a recent spike in local COVID cases – is a whole lot easier on one’s pocket, soul and mental health than the various 7, 14 and god forbid 21-day hotel quarantine confines of the past.
Nonetheless, I was pretty happy to escape the Four Points by Sheraton in Hong Kong and my nine-pace box with a (glorious) view. Apart from their lousy cancellation policy referred to in my last Blog (14 days’ notice of a cancellation required), the hotel offer was pretty decent and the view I referred to over the sea and towards Hong Kong International Airport a constant sense of pleasure.
Still, the confines do get to you. I felt a bit like FedEx executive Chuck Nolan (played by Tom Hanks) in the true-life film Castaway who, stranded on a desert island after his plane, paints a face on a volleyball that he nicknames Wilson and begins talking to. I didn’t have a volleyball but certainly did plenty of talking to myself and, who knows, if I had been in there any longer might have made some friends among the hotel or bathroom amenities.
In the bathroom – “So, how you are today Floss? How’s quarantine? Pulling through?”
In the bedroom – “So Blinds, you are looking a bit drawn. Hope it’s nothing serious or it could be curtains.”
To the ironing board – “Can you stop resting in the wardrobe? I told you, when you work at The Moodie Davitt Report, it’s always press day.”
There’s a certain amount of Pavlonian conditioning about being in hotel quarantine. You may recall that Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov discovered that dogs would salivate not only in response to food placed in front of them but whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing the food. I’m not so sure I ever salivated at the thought of my quarantine food (pictured below) coming my way but the conditioning took hold in a different way.
For sure enough as I heard the sound of the staff working their way down the hallway dropping the three times a day boxed meals outside the box rooms, I would start to mentally prepare for the only human interaction of my confinement (other than the visit of what I call the nose and throat doctors, more of them in a moment).
And then the big moment. Knock, knock.
Usually I did reply with a simple “Thank you” but I confess I once yelled out ‘Who’s there?” and even laughed at my own banal simplicity. Well I thought it was funny. And Wilson would have too.
Yesterday as I was packing to go and checking all the drawers for my belongings, I noticed the room safe for the first time. If only I had spotted it earlier I may not have stolen my own passport.
As for the aforementioned nose and throat doctors (just stay away from my ears, OK?) as I like to call the testing staff, one couldn’t sum up the experience as a warm and cuddly encounter. You’re confronted at the door by three people wearing hazmat suits that wouldn’t look out of place at Chernobyl and a huge mantus-like air blower turned into your room to blow all that filthy COVID-filled air back into the very place where you’ve been confined to escape it.
“Mask down. Nose! Mouth! Open! Rubbish bin!”
“Excuse me? Rubbish bin?”
“Bring the rubbish bin. Now!”
And with that I dutifully brought the rubbish bin into which the intrusive swabs and the tester’s rubber gloves were deposited.
“Thank you,” I said. “You are all doing a great job.” I had wanted to say, “Going anywhere nice for your holidays?” but they were already headed down the hallway to the next nose and mouth swab. And you think you have it tough in your job.
As a semi-free man, I now have to do a daily RAT test (haven’t spotted one yet, thank goodness) and three PCRs before my amber status is turned to blue.
It’s an effective system but as with the need to pay for a three-night hotel stay each time you return to Hong Kong, one that I hope will in the relative near term be confined to history. In the meantime I can at least enjoy gazing at the full moon during Mid-Autumn Festival on my rooftop overlooking Discovery Bay rather than pacing my room and practising my next knock-knock joke.