Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday apologised to thousands of Hong Kong people who were recently quarantined because infections involving mutant Covid strains were found in their buildings, admitting that the conditions they were kept in were "not the best".
People complained they were left without basic necessities at Penny's Bay, couldn't seek medical care at night, and fell sick after eating the food provided.
Some also said that paperwork problems meant they couldn't leave with the others, even after the government abandoned the quarantine plan.
"During their stay in the quarantine centre, I understand the conditions are not the best that we would like to see. The service may be a bit substandard, particularly over this alleged food poisoning," she said.
“For the inconvenience caused by our work, especially the unhappy experience by the residents in quarantine, the poor environment, problematic food, substandard service and the little bit of chaos in leaving the camp, I would like to express my apologies to them,” Lam said.
"We will review all these complaints and grievances with a view to improving the arrangements," she said, adding that she hoped Hongkongers would understand that it was a difficult situation because a "large number of people had to be arranged to be quarantined within a very short period."
Despite the swift U-turn on the 21-day quarantine orders, the CE said authorities were obliged to adopt a strict approach at first – because they were dealing with a more infectious strain of coronavirus – and if they hadn't taken such action, earlier efforts to tackle Covid would have been in vain.
Meanwhile, residents freed early from Penny's Bay continued to criticise the arrangements, with more people saying they couldn't get out when they were supposed to.
Speaking on a RTHK programme, a man surnamed Ho from Tung Chung's Caribbean Coast said only his father was given permission to return home on Saturday, despite the whole family testing negative for the virus.
Ho finally returned home on Monday, only to receive a message saying the Department of Health was yet to issue a certificate for him to be released.
He said this showed a lack of coordination between government departments.
Health officials said the release operation involved many people and it therefore took time to verify identities and documents.