Hotel quarantine rules rethink may be coming

Top News | Jane Cheung 26 Jul 2021

The mechanism that exempts arrivals from mandatory hotel isolation will be reviewed, says Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee, following the Covid controversy surrounding the children of a Saudi Arabian consulate official.

The high-ranking consulate officer's unvaccinated 13-year-old daughter - whose L452R infection is likely to be of the highly virulent Delta variant first found in India - is in critical condition at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.

The girl and her 11-year-old brother, both confirmed infected last week, had visited various tourist spots and malls when they were supposed to be observing self-isolation for 21 days at home in Tai Koo Shing.

Chan yesterday said diplomatic officers and their immediate family members can be exempted from mandatory quarantine in hotels, but the waiver comes with alternative infection control measures, including home isolation and door-to-door transportation to prevent them from coming into contact with the general public.

"We're looking at how we can better monitor compliance to our requirements," she said. "On one hand we are studying if we need to tighten the rules. On the other we have again reminded consulates that they must follow our rules of [quarantine] exemption."

The SAR has seen many imported cases of the Delta variant despite being full vaccination, to which Chan said authorities will constantly assess the risks in different countries and adjust policies.

Citing the Saudi Arabian girl's case as an example, government adviser Yuen Kwok-yung yesterday said even teens may develop serious inflammatory responses upon infection.

The University of Hong Kong microbiologist said many young patients still suffered from impaired smell after recovery as he again called for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Many people think youngsters will only develop mild symptoms if they are infected. But some children and teens may suffer from a serious inflammatory response affecting their blood vessels," Yuen said. He said Queen Mary Hospital is checking on 60 to 70 young recoverees, many of whom still have smelling impairment months after their discharge.

"Some said they smell gasoline from coffee while some have hallucinations and smell bad odor from nothing," he said.

Hong Kong recorded three new imported L452R cases yesterday. One of them is a 31-year-old woman who had been to Spain, Greece, Italy and Switzerland from July 2 to last Tuesday.

The other two were seafarers from Russia and Tanzania.

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