Hong Kong is one of the few places around the world that still has strict Covid-19 measures, including quarantine on arrival for everybody coming onto the territory. The zero-Covid policies are aimed at stopping the virus at the border and limiting the spread in the community as much as possible, to the extent that, at the beginning of the year, even layovers were forbidden at the Hong Kong airport. Over the past year, tens of thousands of people had to quarantine in the special Covid-19 facilities, not only confirmed cases, but also their close contacts.
All the kind of surfaces that typically you would touch with your hands, like the phones, the remote controllers, everything’s been cellophane-wrapped.Clementine Vaughan, skincare entrepreneur told Reuters
In these Covid hotels, everything is wrapped in plastic, from remotes and phones, to pillows and duvets, even the food comes in plastic bags and accompanied by plastic cutlery. In an interview with Reuters, from her quarantine room in one these facilities, skincare entrepreneur Clementine Vaughan said that, besides the plastic wrapped objects, the entire staff wears Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), “Every single one of the staff members here wears full PPE … the gowns, the gloves, the booties, the hats, and that’s every staff member and on every floor.”
The stringent measures are being heavily criticised, on the one hand, for damaging not only the economy, but also the residents’ mental health, and, on the other hand, for creating enormous amounts of unnecessary plastic waste. Edwin Lau, a member of the local environmental group The Green Earth, told Reuters that Hong Kong’s Covid-19 measures show the government’s lack of environmental awareness and stressed that people living in the quarantine facilities are not even confirmed cases.
According to official figures, the city generates over 2,300 tonnes of plastic waste every day and since only 11% gets recycled, most of it ends up in landfills, a spokesperson from the government admitting they are aware of the increase in plastic waste since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, district councillor Paul Zimmerman said that the facilities are also wasteful in themselves. Having been built very quickly and without complying “with any particular building standards”, they cannot be repurposed once the pandemic is over. Like the plastics used throughout them, the buildings are ultimately single use.