Sat, May 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

HK lifts quarantine, lets Metropark guests leave

REUTERS AND AP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong yesterday lifted its weeklong quarantine on a downtown hotel where a Mexican swine flu patient had stayed, releasing about 280 guests and employees who were isolated in the building.

With luggage in tow, guests cheered and waved to waiting reporters as they walked out of the Metropark Hotel in the Wanchai bar and office district.

While many guests were initially outraged to be quarantined for a week in the hotel, some learnt how to let their hair down.

On their final night in the Metropark Hotel, many guests ripped off face masks to dance and party the night away with beer and wine in the downstairs lobby, while toasting reporters camped outside through large windows.

The isolation also evolved into love for some.

The South China Morning Post newspaper reported that at least two new couples had formed, along with other tales of intrigue on the edge of Hong Kong’s Wanchai district, made famous by the 1960s movie The World of Suzie Wong, starring William Holden.

At least one of the women trapped in the hotel was believed to be a prostitute — not unheard of in the pleasure district known for its bargirls and popular with visiting US sailors.

“She remained stuck in one of the hotel’s 173 rooms with the guest who brought her in, because the management refused her a separate room,” the Post reported, citing unnamed hotel guests.

While authorities were praised by experts for their tough quarantine measures to prevent a possible community spread of the H1N1 virus, hotel guests were initially confused and outraged given the perceived risk of cross-infection.

Since then, no new cases have arisen, easing anxieties.

The Hong Kong government has also been on a public relations blitz, offering to foot all extra costs, and plying guests with freebies like T-shirts and tickets to attractions such as the local Disney theme park, while offering two-nights’ free accommodation on their release.

On Thursday, Hong Kong authorities released its first batch of 35 people, most of whom had come into contact with the infected Mexican man on his flight to Hong Kong from Shanghai. The Metropark guests were to be set free at 1230 GMT.

Gripes at the greasy Chinese rice-box meals given to the guests later led to crates of fresh fruit, vegetables and alcohol being brought in to lift spirits.

A banner fashioned from a bedsheet hung outside the hotel with the words: “We still love Hong Kong.”

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