Passing into nothingness

September 20, 2021 08:47
Photo: RTHK

The poet John Keats described a thing of beauty not only as a joy for ever but “a bower quiet for us, and a sleep full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

I doubt that I am alone in that I cannot accept that a government approved quarantine hotel room in which I must spend 21 days close confinement cannot answer that description of a bower.

Worse, the very suggestion that it will be full of health has to be the grossest of mis-descriptions.

The quiet breathing in of air-conditioned air for 21 days is calculated to do considerable harm to my pleural cavities.

I fully acknowledge the need to take effective measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, what I am unable to reconcile with this objective is the necessity to imprison those who have received double vaccination against Covid-19, and have had positive anti-body tests.

Certainly, if the objective is to confine any potential spreader of the disease, a scientifically established period of self-quarantine in one’s own home upon return from places outside Hong Kong is acceptable.

Despite the fact that the incidence of psychological/psychiatric injury has risen alarmingly amongst people who were forced into lockdown, albeit in their own homes, no thought appears to have been given to the adverse health effects of compelling fully vaccinated Hong Kongers to remain in a hotel room for three weeks.

As these hotel rooms are not cleaned, nor aired – by which I mean allowing fresh air to blow through them – victims of this bizarre policy have to reside in an increasingly dirty environment, fed like battery hens and subject to periodic testing by fully Hazmat clothed health officials.

A dog compelled to such a fate would be rescued by the courts.

The greatest irony is that in what purports to be the health interests of the public at large, individuals have to suffer this degrading existence which exposes them to serious ill-health.

If it were the only option it would be defensible, just. But it is not.

The hotel incarceration policy was devised by a government that sought to placate the hoteliers who complained at the absence of tourists.

‘Oh, well, if we have no tourists, we’ll just convert returning permanent residents into tourists so that you can keep your business running.’

At first glance, it might appear to be even-handed, we all have to suffer together if, for one reason or another we find it necessary to travel outside Hong Kong. Yet it is not so.

There is a book of rules governing total exemptions from the restrictions and what I dub “Day Release” after the Correctional Services system of allowing prisoners out on temporary parole for one reason or another.

The exemptions are the most hilarious as was discovered with the Nicole Kidman film crew. In the interests, so we were informed, of Hong Kong’s commerce, the Australian film star and her entire film crew were allowed to circumvent the quarantine regulations completely.

Has it occurred to anyone in Tamar that fully vaccinated permanent residents who are quarantined have a genuine ground of objection to such exemptions?

Those returning permanent residents with business or professional commitments have to conduct their necessary work from the confines of a single, unhealthily cramped and unserviced room. How do the Tamarenes imagine this will further Hong Kong’s commercial interests?

The mere thought, let alone television pictures of Ms. Kidman strolling the highways and byways of Hong Kong, shopping in the malls and patronising the restaurants, is enough to make one’s blood boil.

Or, try to apply for partial exemption, to allow one to go about one’s necessary commercial or professional business. These Day Release terms are so circumscribed as to be impracticable.

Imagine the barrister having to attend court: he or she must go directly from hotel to court, court to hotel, with no side-trips and – wait for it because this is the best bit – without using public transport.

The carrot has usually been far more effective than the stick to persuade people to comply with good practices. If fully vaccinated permanent residents with positive anti-body tests did not have to endure quarantine vile in an approved hotel but confined themselves to their homes, imagine what a positive effect this would have on the percentage of the fully vaccinated, the target to which the administration is aiming.

A sensible, realistic and healthy alternative would be a powerful incentive to get folk to be vaccinated. Whereas those who have done so and tested positive for anti-bodies find themselves outcasts from society, condemned to a form of purgatory.

It really is time to recognise that, like the mother-in-law, Covid-19 in one of its various manifestations, is here to stay, and we have to learn to live with it.

Getting the maximum number of people vaccinated is the only effective way to counter the effects of the disease. All efforts short of compulsory vaccination should be made to encourage this desirable objective.

Banging up compliant citizens is counter-productive and only generates ill-will towards an administration that is perceived to be out of touch.

The availability of vaccines and their administration is one of the bright spots in an otherwise lacklustre performance.

How easy it would be to earn popular praise by effecting a positive, non-discriminatory home based quarantine system. So why not do it?

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King's Counsel