Returnees from UK slam lack of hotel choice - RTHK
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Returnees from UK slam lack of hotel choice

2021-04-08 HKT 12:51
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  • Hong Kong residents returning from the UK will have to spend their three-week-quarantine at the Rambler Garden Hotel in Tsing Yi. Image courtesy of Rambler Garden Hotel's website
    Hong Kong residents returning from the UK will have to spend their three-week-quarantine at the Rambler Garden Hotel in Tsing Yi. Image courtesy of Rambler Garden Hotel's website
Timmy Sung reports
Hongkongers stranded in the UK for months can book seats from Thursday on two special flights to return home, but some have expressed concerns about the arrangements the government has put in place for their quarantine.

Since late December, the authorities have banned SAR residents from returning to the territory if they have spent as little as two hours in the UK over the previous 21 days. The move was taken after a more infectious strain of coronavirus was identified in the country.

But months later, the government has arranged for two Cathay flights to bring people home, on April 21 and April 28.

Returnees will have to spend 21 days in quarantine at the Rambler Garden Hotel in Tsing Yi, at a total cost of between HK$8,400 and HK$10,500, with the flights costing at least HK$9,000.

People returning to the territory from other countries have a choice of 30 quarantine hotels, and the lack of choice for those stuck in the UK appeared to have upset some people.

"Why is it designated flights and hotel? For what good reason that we can't use our own return ticket to go home? Why shall we be punished to one designated hotel ... for 3 weeks?" one Facebook user asked.

This sentiment was echoed by others in a Facebook group called "Hong Kong people stranded in the UK", with some saying they might not even come back because of the hotel situation.

Some said they were worried that the hotel's Wi-Fi might not be good enough to support all the guests' needs, and were concerned about whether they could order food deliveries, or get special meals.

A mother whose two children are studying at universities in London told RTHK that while she understands the government wants to find a hotel that is affordable for all, the rooms available are too small to fit a desk or even a yoga mat.

"For students who have to do online exams, it's going to be unacceptable because there's no desk. Even if they are not doing exams, they will be studying for exams over the period. It's really not going to be feasible," said the woman, who gave her surname as Leung.

"It's not that I am not grateful that the government has opened an opportunity for students to come back, I am very grateful for that. But the government knew at some point it's going to do that and it had four months to prepare for what to do," she said.

"So to me, it's another sign of the government really not getting its act together... nothing is organised!"

In response to an RTHK enquiry, the Food and Health Bureau said the returnees must stay in the same quarantine facility "so as to centrally manage the infection risks." But it didn't explain why the Tsing Yi hotel in particular was chosen.

As for meal arrangements, a spokeswoman said three meals will be provided each day with four options, including vegetarian and foods that are low in salt and sugar.

Special meals, for example Halal or Kosher food, could be arranged upon request and guests are free to order their own meals from outside restaurants, the spokeswoman said.

She did not say if the government will arrange more flights for people to return from the UK, saying that it will continue to monitor the situation.

The two Cathay Pacific flights – CX2252 – will depart from London on April 21 and April 28 at 9.10am.