Isolation hotels can be converted into quarantine facilities for arrivals in the city: Carrie Lam

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The possibility of converting hotels currently used as Covid-19 isolation facilities into quarantine facilities for returning residents and foreign domestic helpers is being discussed between the hospitality industry and the government, according to chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

It came with many Hong Kongers now overseas expected to rush following the administration’s decision to lift the flight ban on nine countries from April 1 and halve the mandatory quarantine of seven-day hotels.

To fight the fifth wave of the epidemic, the government converted several quarantine hotels, including Dorsett Tsuen Wan and iclub Ma Tau Wai Hotel, into community isolation facilities from Feb. 18.

Speaking at LegCo’s CEO Q&A, Lam said the current isolation facilities in Hong Kong were sufficient and not fully occupied. Therefore, the authorities were discussing with the industry to turn them into quarantine hotels again.

However, Lam also said some of them were still taking in Covid patients, who had to wait until they left and sanitize again before taking in people traveling to Hong Kong.

On whether the government will consider allocating, on a fee-based basis, cabin hospitals for aides arriving in Hong Kong to undergo quarantine, Lam said hotels will serve as quarantine facilities to the extent possible for the moment because they already have reservation systems.

She said it was very difficult to make reservations if other government facilities were being used as quarantine hotels.

The executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, Timothy Chui Ting-pong, said in a radio broadcast on Wednesday morning that few flights will resume early next month, so it is believed there will be no too many people coming back to Hong Kong by then.

“Countries in the northern hemisphere will be on summer vacation from May, when this was expected to be the peak for returning travellers.”

He said many designated quarantine hotels had previously become community isolation facilities, dramatically reducing supply. However, the government shortened the quarantine days, which in another way increased the number of rooms available.

“The city currently has around 5,600 to 6,000 rooms and could accommodate more than 10,000 arrivals in a month.”

He suggested gradually changing quarantine isolation hotels to increase the number of rooms, hoping the government would ease the mechanism for suspending flights.

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