Life in hotel quarantine: 'I'm on day two. It's around day 11 things get difficult'

Amelia Hill
·3-min read

Ian Samson, 28, who was born in Edinburgh, moved to Hong Kong in 2019 and works in investment management

I have a pile of 20 bananas in my hotel room here in Hong Kong, a spin bike I’ve had delivered and some rapidly dying flowers that the hotel gave me on the first day as a morbid reminder of how little sunlight I would be getting for the next 21 days.

The quarantine is absolute and very strict. We’re allowed to open the door of our rooms to collect groceries left on a stool outside and that’s it. It’s actually pretty funny in a bleak way: the corridor is very dark with a red light, so when you open the door, it’s almost like a horror film out there. Sometimes you see the delivery guy disappearing round the corner as they leave. That’s as much human contact as I’m going to get for the next 21 days, except on days 12 and 19 when they come in, all suited up in protective gear, to test me.

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I’m on day two of my 21-day hotel quarantine and, based on the two very strict home quarantines I’ve done here after previous trips out of the country – each of which lasted only two weeks – it’s around day 11 that things start to get difficult.

The difficulties might kick in earlier this time, of course: there’s a psychological difference between strict home quarantines where you shouldn’t go out, to a hotel quarantine where you absolutely can’t go out. God knows how I’m going to find the third week in this room of just 20 sq metres. I can’t imagine it’s going to be great.

I don’t think I’ll feel lonely: I feel pretty connected online to my friends at home and in Hong Kong. The lack of human contact is not that much worse than being under quarantine at home, although of course I am really, absolutely alone. So we’ll have to see how that goes into the third week.

There are routines at the hotel: we can’t have cleaners in our rooms, so we have to leave our bin bags outside the room at 2pm every day. If we leave it at any other time, there’s a £5 fine. We can leave our laundry out once a week too.

The quarantine is costing me £1,900 in hotel bills – I paid £600 extra for a window that opens, even though it opens on to a road that’s pretty much a motorway. I wanted a window that opened because apparently otherwise you get really dehydrated: breathing air that’s just endlessly circulating round the hotel for 21 days. It seems like a little thing but I’ve been told it really matters.

I work very long hours – from around 10am to 9pm. I use my laptop and link it up to the hotel’s screen. It’s not great but it’s OK. I do my spinning and a couple of hours Mandarin every day. I watch the Simpsons and old football matches on YouTube and mess around on Twitter.

The food is incredibly bad in this hotel, so I’ve bought a microwave. It’s quite hard to source microwave food that isn’t noodles, so that’s going to be a challenge for 21 days. Because my first grocery order got duplicated, I’ve got a pile of 20 bananas, 15 apples and a load of cereal to get through too.

Today the hotel alarm went off and I opened my door. There was just this dark corridor with a red flashing light, and the shadow of someone scuttling past. I like to think the alarm was to alert the hotel to one of us trying to escape. One of us bolting to freedom.