As thousands of Hong Kongers and expatriates return to the territory, many are seeking refuge in hotels, fearful that cramped apartments in one of the world’s most expensive property markets could put their families or friends at risk.
Social distancing is tough in Hong Kong, where most of the territory’s 7.4 million population live in apartments that on average are no bigger than 46m2.
The concerns have triggered a spike in occupancy rates for those Hong Kong hotels prepared to take guests undergoing quarantine, even as most of the industry grapples with a devastating slump due to COVID-19.
One expatriate who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 12 years opted to quarantine in a hotel when returning last week, worried that going back to his two-bedroom apartment could put his wife and two daughters at risk.
“In case I had it, I didn’t want to get the girls sick,” he said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Even before the government implemented a compulsory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals on Thursday last week, many returnees had voluntarily self-isolated in hotel rooms.
The numbers returning have been swelled by an influx of students arriving from overseas where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, at a time when Hong Kong’s infection rate remains relatively low, officials said.
More than 77,000 Hong Kongers have returned since the mandatory quarantine was imposed, government data showed.
A four-star hotel on Hong Kong Island, which had 15 percent of its rooms occupied at the start of the outbreak in January, said 60 percent of its rooms are now full.
“Ninety percent of our guests are here for quarantine reasons,” said a sales official at the hotel, who declined to be named because she was not authorized to speak to the media.
The rest of the hotel’s rooms have been left unoccupied intentionally for social-distancing purposes, she said, adding that in hotels which did not implement such measures the occupancy rate could be as high as 90 percent.
Packages for a 14-day stay in a standard room at Dorsett Hotel properties in the densely populated districts of Mong Kok and Wan Chai, costing HK$5,600 and HK$6,888 (US$722 and US$889) respectively, are fully booked until early next month.
The Dorsett Hotel said that it had assigned a certain number of standard rooms for students under quarantine.
It said that it had two air purifiers on each floor, and a separate check–in area and elevators for those in quarantine.
Hong Kong Legislator Yiu Si-wing (姚思榮), who represents the tourism industry, told reporters last week that at least 14 hotels are offering 1,000 rooms for those in quarantine.
However, some travelers have complained on social media of being stranded at Hong Kong International Airport because they could not find a hotel room.
“Does this mean I need to sleep in the airport for 14 days?” one netizen wrote.
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