Post was originally written in April 2022
Six out of seven days into quarantine at Kerry Hotel Hong Kong, my then-fiancé tested positive on a PCR test by Prenetics. Note that prior to this test taken on day 5, we had both tested unequivocally negative on two ISO-certified PCR tests by separate labs, including a CT40 PCR test right before flying in Bangkok (the bud went down so far down our noses it went into our throats... pretty sure they got the sample needed) , and a PCR test upon arrival in Hong Kong airport.
We had been so careful on the airplane, booked enclosed business class seats and didn't eat nor go to the toilet over the short 3 hour flight, so I'm pretty certain we can rule out getting infected on the plane. Also, keep in mind that he had recently had Covid three weeks ago in Phuket, but obviously had fully healed since then - otherwise we wouldn't be able to fly.
When we got the positive notice and Kerry staff started taping up our door, we knew that this test was probably the infamous test that had either a high or unlimited CT value, capable of detecting old and insignificant Covid infections. They call this "re-positive" in Hong Kong. Yeah, they're that common.
For good measure, J took 4 rapid antigen tests in a row, and all were negative. We received a call from his case worker, who informed him he was going to be picked up and taken to the Regala Skycity Hotel for 7 days.
As for me, the Covid-negative close contact? A f*cking government isolation facility. Not a hotel, and certainly not my own, empty, perfect-for-solo-isolation apartment. After a quick Google search, I learned it was one of those hastily built "camps" that inexplicably prides itself for being built within 70 days. For those about to move in, definitely more a cause for alarm than something boast-worthy?
The hellish ordeal begins. After J's futile attempts to plead with the health department to put me anywhere but a camp, even citing mental health, we were picked up and sent to our respective locations. For me, I was driven on a completely empty bus all by myself, and I arrived at around 10pm. It reminded me specifically of that scene in the Inbetweeners movie when the guys all arrived to their decrepit motel in Greece. That was the feeling of the place.
The room is depressing. There are flies. The walls are extremely thin, so all the outside sounds are audible (fine at night, not great in the early morning when it sounds like birds are literally squawking into your ear, and staff are moving around). The bathroom, a combined shower and toilet, is disgusting and lacks a proper drainage system. Light pours in through the blinds regardless of the time of day - expect a brightly lit room by sunrise.
The floor feels grimy. Terrible data (1 bar throughout the entire stay). The bed is covered in plastic, and the sheets don't fully cover the plastic. The duvet and covers are all cheap quality and newly packaged from Taobao, and smell really strange. Of course, there are no facilities to do any washing. The worst part about all this was the psychological aspect of knowing I didn't need to be there at all.
Okay it gets worse. Since I am a close contact, I'm under constant surveillance in case - god forbid - I come up positive for Covid-19 (please move on, Hong Kong, the rest of the world has). This means I was constantly barraged with phone calls in ridiculous hours of the morning to check on things like my RAT results and body temperature. I had to send a WhatsApp photo of my RAT result + thermometer result everyday to the WhatsApp line, AND I had to get my temperature taken in person by the facility staff. I also had to take a PCR test on randomised days, so if an unnecessary phone call didn't make me jump out of bed at 7:30am, it was several large raps on the door for a PCR. Such a traumatising experience being locked up and being poked and prodded from all sides.
On the other hand, it sucked that J had to extend his quarantine by a few more days but he had a guaranteed "out" on day 7. All he had to do was submit a negative RAT on days 6 & 7 (and easily done, as he was already testing negative everyday even before the phone call about a positive result). Not a single PCR test. He also got out one day earlier than me, because the day we left the hotel together counted as day 1 for him, and day 0 for me. The injustice of this entire situation really rattled me up the first couple of days, and I realised I was working myself into a rage storm, so consciously worked towards being calmer on the last few days.
In conclusion, close contacts of positive cases have it much, much worse in Hong Kong. Especially if you've travelled internationally.