Inside Aussie’s hell in grim Hong Kong quarantine

From complaining about pokey rooms to slow food services, Australians currently forced to self-isolate in luxury five-star hotels across the country are a tough bunch to please.

This week, thousands of people returning from overseas were put in 14-day quarantine in some of Australia’s best hotels – including the Hilton and Intercontinental in Sydney – in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

From celebrity chefs to Australian models and even influencers, the current quarantine facilities provided for compulsory quarantine for returning travellers is an important measure for Australians to flatten the curve.

But despite some enjoying city views and three free meals a day, many have taken to social media to complain about the ‘prison-like’ conditions and lack of fresh air while serving out the two-week period.

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Meanwhile, sitting more than 7000km away is William, who has been living in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong for the past two-and-a-half years. And while enduring two weeks in a “grim” makeshift quarantine camp, he’s been stunned by the complaints made by fellow Aussies sitting pretty in hotel rooms.

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William, who wanted to keep his surname anonymous, has been self-isolating in a makeshift camp in Hong Kong for the past 14 days. On what will hopefully be his last day in the camp, Will has said Australians forced to quarantine in places like the Hilton should consider themselves lucky.

“(For me) there’s no floor, the bathrooms are filthy, there’s nil communication and the food is gross, but they’re doing the best they can,” he told of his accommodation in Hong Kong.

“People shouldn’t be expecting a five-star hotel, they should be expecting no stars! This is a quarantine centre, not a holiday.”

The 35-year-old, who works in marketing, was forced in to a quarantine camp after his barber tested positive to COVID-19. Having had his hair cut within the two-week incubation period, William was taken from his home and put in to the room in mid-March.

“Hong Kong has actually done a really good job of staying on top of things and life is as normal as it can be at the moment,” he said.

“I was actually at the office when I found out I had to come (to the camp).

“I was given about three hours warning before people in hazmat suits turned up in front my building and freaked the residents out. But it was enough time to pack some clothes, food, entertainment and work laptop.”

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William said the conditions at the camp are “extremely basic”, and he believes his room was built quickly to accommodate the expected onslaught of people required to go in to quarantine.

“The whole building seems to be a half finished public housing estate which has been quickly converted into a quarantine camp,” he said.

“There’s no furniture, almost no amenities and not even floor. A few times a day, they ring the doorbell and I can open the grill/grate door where there is a basket attached. They put meals in there for me.

“They have forgotten some meals though, but I can’t really be upset as they’re doing the best they can with limited resources.”

One of the biggest points of contention for people staying at quarantine hotels in Australia is the food quality.

Celebrity chef Lyndey Milan said the first few dinners while in quarantine at the Hilton were “carb loading”, while Lara Worthington’s mother, Sharon Bingle, was less than impressed by the catering offered at The Urban Newtown in Sydney’s inner west.

William said the food offered at his accommodation was “pretty atrocious”, and he’s had to “beg” for water throughout his stay.

“The fact there is no floor is pretty bad,” he said of the accommodation.

“We’ve been given slippers to walk around in as the cement is so filthy. We’re not allowed to have food deliveries for hygiene reasons.

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Currently in Hong Kong, groups of more than four people are not allowed to gather in public places in an effort to combat the pandemic.

Hong Kong has recorded just over 714 coronavirus cases and only four deaths. Experts say the low number of cases, especially because of their proximity to China, is because of Hong Kong’s experience with the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, in which 299 people died.

The response to COVID-19 means the public and healthcare services remained on high alert for another infectious disease – and responded quickly when the COVID-19 outbreak began in China. More than 97 per cent of residents wear masks, and there is almost no restrictions when it comes to COVID-19 testing.

William, who hopes to be out of the camp within the next 24 hours, said people in Australian isolation need to understand they are not on holiday and places like the Hilton and the Intercontinental are simply acting as a quarantine centre too.

“You should be expecting essentially nothing except a bed and a shower,” he said.

“These facilities are doing the best they can while scrambling for resources. Stay calm and keep busy during the day. You’ll then be able to look back on this and laugh down the track.”

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