336 hours here— What to pack: My stay at the Penny’s Bay Government Mandatory Quarantine Site

Hey there, I am writing this while staying at the government-mandated Hong Kong Penny’s Bay quarantine camp. I was admitted for 2 weeks straight. I wrote this because, prior to my arrival at the camp, I have done quite some researches, and found that many of the blogs/ vlogs and articles are always in Chinese, and I would imagine that it could be super frustrating if you are an expat or someone who does not understand Chinese.

So here’s what will happen when you are confirmed as a close contact if someone who is COVID positive.

My “city” view each day,

Oh my God, so right now… what should I do?
Starting from the moment that you know you have met someone who tested COVID positive, you will receive a call from the Hong Kong Department of Health, confirming your personal details and notifying that you would have to stay at the designated government-mandated quarantine campsite/hotel for a period of days (depending on when you last contacted with the COVID-positive patient). You can only leave at 23:59 the last day of your quarantine. And no worries, you will be picked up by a team of medical personnel from the government, so in the meantime, just wait. Anyone living with you would be classified as a third-layer close contacts, so they would have to do a governmental recognized COVID test, and prove that they have taken the test with a SMS test result notification. You are also not allowed to leave your home once they called. Where you’d stay really depends on your luck. For my case, as I got notified at night, so the government will only send me into the camp the next day. I ended up having around 15 hours to prepare everything before I have to head to the camp.

They will tell you when they’ll come and pick you up:
The next morning at around 10am, I received a call from the government again, telling me that I am being assigned to the Hong Kong Penny’s Bay quarantine camp and that they would come at 12–3pm to pick me up.

Logistics: What happened when they finally come?
Okay, so now you have get everything prepared, waiting for the personnel to pick you up. The Auxiliary Medical Service personnel will wear their PPE with full protection, assisted usually by your security guards, and meet you at your door. They will first show you a Quarantine Order issued by the court, which states that you must obey the law to get quarantined in the assigned campsite. Then, your temperature will be taken and you are good to go!

(One thing is: I got lots of hard-stares from the guards and other residents. I felt the real discrimination here especially that I was assisted by a fully-geared medical staff and really have gotten me to reflect on how society usually treats others with disabilities and sickness. Be kind guys.)

You will be escorted onto a 19 seat vehicle, which only allows maximum of 3–4 passengers with 1 medical staff and 1 driver.

The buses that send “close contacts” in.

Luggage: What to bring

Let’s start by what they have here: An air-conditioner (you don’t need to bring a fan hurray!), standard 3 bottles of 750ml water per day, a plastic cup and bowl (I use the cup for brushing), sets of plastic cutleries, two movable tables, two beds (bear in mind that there might be families with younger children that need 2 beds), a movable wardrobe, two mattresses, sets of beddings (depending on the number of persons living in a room), a roll of tissue paper, a pillow, a TV, rubbish bags, warm water for showers…

But back to the most important question of what to bring when you are being ordered to stay at the camp. My recommendation is really to bring a suitcase with you so you are able to feel like home:

  1. A pair of Scissors and A Nail Cutter
    You will have lots of packaged food and stuff to open, so bringing in a pair of scissors would ease the troubles of tearing off the packages with your pair of bare hands. Also in these 14 days in a room, you would need to do some self manicure, so bringing a nail cutter would be helpful.
  2. Beddings & Pillows
    They provide a set of beddings for you. But again, for hygienic purposes, I brought in my own set of beddings, together with my own sleeping pillow as I have watched vlogs saying that the pillows are either super thick or super flat.
  3. Clothing & Towels
    There is no laundry service nor washing machine here. What they have are just a washing basket and a basin… So you would have to bring enough underwear, a few sets of comfortable pajamas and a set of clothing for leaving. You would also need your own towels for shower.
  4. Comb
    I guess you can ask for a new comb here. But for hygiene reasons, I would recommend you to bring your own comb.
  5. Computer/ Books/ IPAD — things that get you entertained
    You can do a lot within 14 days. Bring your computer, a few books and maybe an IPAD or a Kindle here, you will definitely enjoy your own time working on stuff that you have wanted to do for long — like writing and reading a book, making some music, attending some virtual classes. Don’t forget your chargers though!
  6. Disinfectant & Sanitizers
    Not really sure who has stayed in my room here before, I brought in disinfectants just to clean the room again. But apparently, the room here has been cleaned thoroughly upon my arrival. Also, as you will have to use the same thermometer to measure temperature under your tongue, you should bring at least 28+ alcohol swabs to clean the thermometer.
  7. Drinks of Your Own Choice
    Yes, they will give you free bottles of water. But you’d want some coffee, tea, alcohol in. As outsiders are not allowed to bring in hot food nor alcohol in, and that the drink powders that they provide might not suit you, so you would have to prepare them on your own in your suitcase.
  8. Electric Water Kettle & Plastic Water Jug
    There is an electric water boiler a brand-new water jug at the room. I have brought my own portable boiler for the sake of hygiene.
  9. Mask
    Many might not know about this but make sure you bring in a few masks. There will be medical/ administrative staff checking in once in a while. They would require you to wear a mask before they could conduct the temperature check or talk with you. Or you can also request via the WhatsApp chat with the staff in the camp.
  10. Hairdryer
    There will be a weak hair dryer with low wattage at the room. I suggest you to bring your own hairdryer if you are not comfortable with drying your hair for a very long time.
  11. Tissue
    They only provide you with the toilet tissue rolls here. I would recommend bringing your own box of tissue and also some packs of tissue just in case.
  12. Toothbrush & Toothpaste
    They will provide you toothpaste, and if you finished it, you can request for more. However, for toothbrush, they usually assume that you’d bring your own. But you can, of course, request for it as well.
  13. Sanitary Products
    You should consider bringing your own sanitary products, as even if you have requested, the staff might not send in right away, and they would not have the type and brands that suit you the best. Alternatively, if you really need a brand that you use urgently, you can go online and look for services that send products in to the quarantine camps, but am really not sure of its reliability and pricing.
  14. Snacks
    You will be provided with 3 free meals each day, but it is best to bring in snacks and food that you like. But they also provide you with a fruit a day.
  15. Slippers
    You need a pair of slippers for your stay here to feel comfortable.
  16. Socket Extension
    There are only 3 outlets here, and somehow 2 of them are quite far away from your bed, so to stay safe, bring your own socket extension.
  17. WIFI & Data Card
    There is no governmental WIFI hotspots here. If you want to surf the net, better have your own data card or a portable WIFI. I would highly recommend you to buy a 30 bucks 50GB sim card from ParknShop and create your own phone hotspot. You can also Whatsapp and request a data sim card, but it has the speed limit of 4G for the first 2GB, then you will get the restricted speed. You can request a new sim card for multiple times, but the staff would remind you that you should not request this every day due to the high demand.
  18. Your own mug
    You need to bring a mug or some paper cups, to mix your own drinks and just to enjoy some hot beverages.
My suitcase with a good amount of water drank! → Planning to bring the bottles out for recycling.

The Camp
There will be a Whatsapp number that you can text 24–7 to the staff at the camp. They will try their best to cater your needs, but again, this is not a hotel, so they will just provide you with bare minimum.

There are rules here:

  1. COVID Tests
    Apart from the temperature measurement at the moment when they picked you up, you would have to do the COVID tests twice — first time upon your arrival at the camp; the second time, 2–3 days before finishing your quarantine days. You will be asked to do Deep Throat Saliva Tests. Usually, the test results for the quarantine campers come back within 24 hours via SMS messages. Only if you receive 2 COVID negative messages that you could be allowed to leave the campsite. Or else, you might be sent into other care facilities or even a hospital.
  2. Meal Hours
    *_* Expect a retiree life here. You will receive your breakfast delivery at 7–8am, then your lunch at 11:30–12nn. And your dinner before 6pm. Coming here has provided me a chance to sleep and wake early, so that I would not crave for snacks or extra meals. The staff will also notify you by knocking at your window or your door when your meal arrives. (This is also almost the only time each day that I get to have some F2F human interactions by saying “Thank you” to them.)
  3. Temperature Measurement
    You will be asked to measure your temperature every day at 8am AND 4pm (recommended) under your tongue. They will provide you with a thermometer upon your arrival and you have the same one for 14 days — so bring some alcohol swabs in. The staff will also do random checks on whatever day by calling or coming to yours to have a measurement.
  4. Random Checks
    **This is important. Your phone should never really be on silence or in a “Non-disturb” mode. The nurses from the Health Department will call you randomly in the morning starting from 8:30am to afternoon at around 5pm, asking you your body temperature and whether you feel unwell. You would have to answer the call, or else, the nurses will come at your door and measure your temperature for record.
  5. Smoking
    You are not allowed to smoke inside the camp. The fire alarm goes off easily.
  6. *Sending stuff in*
    Outsiders, including your family and friends, are allowed to send things in. However, the process goes by you sending a Whatsapp text to the staff, writing a form that states the details of the package and the name of the person that would be sending things in, then you will receive an approval text. Your requested package will be reviewed by the security and the administrative team, and will be sitting at a “warehouse” waiting to be dispatched a few hours later when the timeslot for delivery has come. Would really recommend you to pack all your stuff necessary in, to save the troubles.
  7. Your Trash
    Your trash is bio-hazard. Each morning, they will send you an empty rubbish bag with the tag “bio-hazard” on, and after filling it to 80% full, you would have to put the trash outside of your door, and some staff here will come and collect them.

***Other important-to-know points:

  1. Sick Leave
    When the man from the Health Department called, they will ask if you need a sick leave letter from the doctor as a proof to your employer. In my case, I did not get one as my company has trusted me with my situation. But if you need one, make sure to request it at the time that they notify you to quarantine. You would not be allow to request for it later.
  2. Food
    You will be given a list to choose your meal, Set A/B/C/D. There are vegetarian choices for those who just simply want a diet or are religious. For others, as the staff could not process all the wishes of your order in a day, so they will first serve you vegetarian meals for the first two days. Starting from the second/third day, you get to receive a meal of your own choice. The below is a picture of the food that I ordered. You will have to choose every meal, incl. breakfast, lunch and dinner, for the whole week, and they will repeat the same choices for your second week here. You can also customize your own quantity for each meal. Fruits are served every day as well, orange or apple randomly.
  3. Water and Drinks
    3 bottles of 750ml water are given every day. 2 in the early morning at 6am, and one at around 5pm. You can definitely request for more via the Whatsapp hotline. For drinks, they usually will serve you the drinks powder and expect you to boil the water and mix your own drink. So bring your own mug. I have tried ordering milk tea and coffee. They got me Lipton milk tea powder and white coffee powder. Some I heard, also got packaged melon/ lemon tea.
  4. The Bed
    The mattress is quite thin TBH. What you can do here is to stack the mattresses on the two beds (for 1 person stay), and that will make things more comfortable. I still had bad sleeps and back pains, like many others who stayed here for quarantines. But the two-mattress bed is already way better than the single ones.
  5. Cleaning
    In your room, you would find a broom with a dust pan, a mop and a bucket. I have cleaned my room once, after the first week, but you can clean it more often. You can also request them to send in disinfectants.
Healthy but repetitive ~

As I am writing this towards the end of my mandatory quarantine days, I also have received notes via the Whatsapp hotline on the arrangement for leaving the site:

  1. Traffic Arrangements
    All departing personas from the quarantine center must take the shuttle bus arranged to Tsing Yi MTR station. You can either choose to leave at 23:59 on the last day of your quarantine period or 10:00 the next day.
  2. Trash
    Except for the electronics and the beddings provided, you should throw everything out in the “bio-hazard” bag for easy handling.

As an outgoing person, it was at first, quite hard for me to imagine the 330+ hours of little human contact. Recently, I have not been able to appreciate little things in life due to personal matters in life. The feeling of being depressed and lost hit in. But then I took this opportunity as a little getaway, for me to reflect on all my regrets in life and to meditate a bit to calm myself down. I also had quite decent hours of self-time, to read and to finish things that I always wanted to do but yet too lazy to do.

In a nutshell, I tried treating this as a once in a lifetime experience, and that we are all now living in history.

Take care everyone and hope this diary really help those who are confused and desperate out there!