What It’s Like Entering Hong Kong In The Era Of Coronavirus (Incredible, With Photos)

Laurel Chor traveled from Paris to London and then home to Hong Kong and since there was so much waiting involved in the process to enter Hong Kong on arrival she shared her experience in real time as she filled out quarantine paperwork and got tested for COVID-19 before being permitted to leave the airport. It took 8 hours to get her test results.

After checking in at Paris Charles de Gaulle where British Airways staff wore gloves and masks, she reports that no BA crew wore either inflight either to London or connecting onward to Hong Kong. Her Boeing 777 flight to Hong Kong had about 100 passengers on board, and only one was planning to connect (with special permission) beyond Hong Kong.

After the plane landed she had to:

  • complete a quarantine order form
  • complete a health declaration
  • download a tracking app
  • put on a tracking bracelet
  • register the bracelet
  • verify her phone with officials and show that the number provided worked
  • take a COVID-19 spit test
  • share details of her ride away from the airport, including license plate

Surprisingly to me she reports “a health dept official officially signed & stamped my quarantine declaration in duplicate.” In India they no longer want to stamp boarding passes, to provide greater social distancing, and are replacing the process with cameras that will track people and match identities at security with those boarding planes.

Hong Kong airport is using a spit test, which can be just as accurate and far less traumatizing than swabbing the back of your throat and up your nose.

She was asked if she had someone to take care of her if needed, and questioned about whether she had a thermometer. When she didn’t immediately say that she did, the government issued one to her.

He showed me how to fill in my symptom + temperature tracking table, explained that I needed to fill in another form with the details of my method of transportation home (eg license plate #). Everything was in a manila folder. He told me not to worry & wished me good health.

After receiving my bracelet and my thermometer, I went on through immigration and got my bags as normal. On the other side we were directed onto buses and young men in full protection gear helped load our bags onto the bus.

After all of this she’d have to wait two weeks to go anywhere because she’ll be quarantined – even when the COVID-19 test shows she isn’t currently infected with the virus there’s the chance of an incorrect reading and a chance that she’ll still develop the infection, that the virus simply isn’t showing yet.

The process was long, but Hong Kong staff made it as civilized as possible – passengers were offered free sandwiches (including a vegetarian choice) and bottled water. There was only one hygiene “slip” through the entire process, “a passenger asked to switch her sandwich choice and the staff took her box back from her and put it back on the cart.”

Once she finally left the airport the coronavirus protection process wasn’t done – her building management awaited her arrival, spraying her and her luggage in the lobby and disinfecting the lobby and elevator behind her.

Hong Kong has largely contained the virus, reporting that there hasn’t been a locally transmitted case in nearly three weeks and no virus-related deaths in nearly two months.

(HT: Reid F.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This procedure should be mandatory in the US, EU etc. So it will stop people travelling for nothing! These travellers should be monitored strictly for 14 days and penalised for any non-compliance.
    Travelling internationally at the moment means spreading the virus as well.

  2. @ Gary — This is the clearest evidence yet that there will not be a return to normal travel anytime soon. I am not very interested in wearing a tracking bracelet. Governments should have stuck with secretly tracking us via our phones. Once people are constantly reminded that they are being tracked, they will resist.

  3. These actions directly infringe on my god given right to infect anyone I want at any time with any illness that I have!

  4. I have no desire to travel internationally at this time. I canceled my vacation to Europe for next month.

  5. Wow.

    But that’s completely unsustainable. Works in the interim for people returning to home or a permanent location. But there’s no way it can – or will – become the norm for regular business/leisure travel. Iceland’s proposed approach is probably more likely for that…

  6. Largely a moot issue for foreigners (e.g. most readers) since travel to HK is only available for residents… She doubts this is scaleable.

  7. A few concerns:

    1. So you may not have it, but you are stuck in a room all day and someone in there may have it.
    2. I assume there must be bathrooms there that you have to share.
    3. A lot of these countries can find endless supplies and the US can’t get enough for medical people. And I haven’t found a thermometer anywhere since this has started.
    4. While no test is ever 100%, it seems like most COVID19 tests, including those for antibodies are substantially lower than many tests.

    Well, everything is fine in the US, states are opening up, people are hitting the bars in Arizona. Life is normal. Until you get sick.

  8. Perhaps a lot of readers do not realize how crowded Hong Kong is. 7.7 million people in a small area. To have contained infections as well as they have is phenomenal.

  9. Outstanding. Statistics through May 13: 26,000 cases in HK, 4 deaths. Population: 7.5 million.

    So much for the US being the “biggest and the best”. We are neither.

  10. Would like to know if there announcements playing all throughout the 8 hour wait. HK has lots of that and it becomes annoying quite quickly.

  11. This is what an an actual, coherent medical methodology looks like. America has no plan other than the traditional Repugnicant health care plan: get sick and die! #freedom, #MAGA

  12. @Erik – Actually @Panni is the opposite of a Karen. She’s not implying privileges for herself that other people don’t get. Quite the opposite, unless she’s outright insane she’s practicing what she preaches and without any racism or bias.

  13. @Christian – actually, she is a Karen, a busybody, and fear-addled know-it-all who thinks this ridiculous procedure should be copied around the world. You can bet that there will be no travel if this becomes standard. No one will want to travel if they have to go through this. And for what? To try to control a virus that cannot be controlled? I do hope that the world will not adopt this Karen’s attitude. There is a difference between doing something useful and full-on overkill, and this is most definitely the latter.

  14. Similar to Taiwan. Not sure why it’s so “incredibile” to Gary.

    If I were in him, I’d be writing on how “incredible” it is that his elected government is failing to protect the lives of his fellow Americans or that this type of operations are not routine in his country.

  15. Why don’t they do the Antibody test and if positive they already had it and recovered??? if negative then test for COVID19 and torture them for 8 hours
    Rog your an IDIOT!!KimmieA ditti

  16. TO ALL THE NEGATIVE COMMENTS – I am stranded in Hong Kong and cannot get home to Cyprus as it is in lockdown and the airports closed . Hong Kong is the best place to get stranded ,as these procedures have stopped the virus from spreading and no one here , either local HK Chinese or foreigners complain about wearing a bracelet to be tracked JUST FOR TWO WEEKS quarantine. Then it is disposed of . Why would you not wear it , it stops others catching the virus if YOU are a carrier . It is a pity that more countries do not adopt these measures . HK has had 1080 cases and only 4 deaths since 20th Jan 2020 in a congested population of 7.5 million people . It is a pity New York did not do something similar .
    Where I live (Cyprus ) is also putting all Cypriot nationals and permanent residents ( with visas to live/work there ) into 2 weeks quarantine in hotels with 3 meals a day , paid for by the government . I will have to do it when I can enter the country .. It has stopped the spread in Cyprus also and made my adopted country safer . Some countries have effective governments who protect the people , some do not .

  17. @Panni — These procedures make sense for a country with very little COVID-19, but make much less sense when there’s been plenty of cases. I would think an arrival test — hopefully the 5-minute version — would be more than enough. The idea is not to reduce the risk to zero — we don’t do that for all the other infectious diseases like flu — just to reduce the risk to a more manageable level. COVID-19 is a nasty virus, but it’s not all the nastier than all the other viruses we don’t obsess about.

  18. Life is not sustainable as the ”scarologists” want us to live. You trust those is power to dispose of the tracking information in two weeks? Hahahahaha . . . Just making it easier to catalog and keep track. No thank you. It’s called personal responsibility. If you’re sick, stay home, if you’re scared, stay home. If you don’t want to live your life stuck inside 24/7, go somewhere.

  19. Anyone know how a mother with two kids would be handled? Would she have to wait in that hall area trying to entertain them for 8-12 hrs after a 14 hr flight?

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