I’ll restrain myself, insofar as possible, from commenting here on Hong Kong politics beyond observing that the territory continues to pursue, as best one can tell, a “zero-COVID” policy. Please know that the title of this post was a Frank Herbert quote chosen completely at random, from his novel God Emperor of Dune .
Mandatory masking orders remain in effect. The RT-PCR-based COVID testing program, which began on a voluntary basis, continues but many of the samples which it now collects and processes are taken from individuals ordered by the government to present themselves for testing, on pain of criminal prosecution and de facto loss of employment. A quarantine camp system has been constructed and, on any given day, hundreds of people who are completely healthy may be ensnared and transported there for, currently, a three-week-long period of isolation. Increasingly, those consigned to quarantine are apprehended via what the local administration itself terms “ambush lockdowns” in which buildings are surrounded without warning by government personnel (including police officers), often late at night (e.g. 12 AM), for a period of up to twenty-four hours and everyone within the target area is forced to undergo preliminary COVID testing with jail time and fines for those disinclined to readily comply. If they test positive, they’re taken to a hospital COVID ward. If they test negative, they may be allowed to return to their homes and lives or they may be ordered to pack a bag and wait for minibuses to transport them to quarantine. The government is also vigorously encouraging use of a contact tracing app.
Hong Kong has seen 210 deaths ascribed to COVID-19, total, since January 2020. Yes, a couple of hundred deaths, nearly all of people with grave preexisting health problems, over a period of nearly a year and a half.
Recently, there were a small number of possible URTIs at S’s workplace. These were almost certainly boring old common colds or allergies or a combination of the two and/or other non-COVID-related conditions. Nevertheless, she and her colleagues were all ordered by the government to undergo COVID testing and would not be able to return to their office when it opened again a few days later without proof of a negative result.
I wasn’t subject to the testing order, but we agreed that I would accompany her and get tested as well. We’re both in excellent health and neither of us has experienced any symptoms of any respiratory ailment at any time during the “pandemic”. Before going to a testing site, we broke out a blood-droplet home antibody test kit and both came up negative, as expected.
Outside the building in which the samples would be collected, there were two lines: one for those who had made an appointment and one for walk-ins. After a short wait, and after a group from the pre-booked persons line were admitted, we and others in the walk-ins queue were led inside, to another serpentine line constructed with retractable-strap barriers and marked with social-distancing-reminder footprint stickers that everyone ignored.
After reaching the front of the inside-the-building line (the first of two, as it turned out), we were waved over to a desk where the staffer, gowned and surgical-masked and face-visored and from behind a plexiglass screen, asked for our identity cards, entered the information, and asked for our telephone numbers, which we declined to provide.
She really wanted our mobile numbers, ostensibly so that they could send us an SMS with our results (as well as, I’m sure, if positive, instructions on how to surrender ourselves for transport to a hospital). We were happy to provide our residential addresses and to pick up the results, which would be available the next day, in person. Her final gambit was to claim that S. would have to pay for her test if she weren’t willing to share her mobile number. That was fine with us. I’d have had to pay anyway, as my test was completely voluntary. We were shunted to a different, similar desk, one for paying customers.
At desk #2, we got the same hard sell about providing telephone numbers and again firmly and repeatedly declined. The person manning this desk eventually accepted our decision and excused herself for a few minutes. When she came back, she printed out two forms for us to complete (with blanks for residential address information in lieu of phone numbers), accepted payment (HK $240 each), and handed us the sample vials and postcard-sized receipts. Then it was off to the pre-sample-taking line.
At the sampling station, we were each asked to temporarily remove our mask and another individual in ineffective-against-airborne-viruses PPE rolled one cotton-tipped stick around inside our nostrils and brushed a second against the backs of our throats after asking us to open our mouths. They went into the vial, she retained the filled-out form, and we departed the makeshift facility.
A couple of days later, during which time nobody had broken down our door and hauled us away, we went and collected our results in person. Negative as expected. No indication as to the Ct (cycle threshold) value used (perhaps-relevant reading: Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be … [NYT]). Maybe I will try to get an answer on that detail from the lab that processed the samples and did the testing offsite. Their contact details are printed on the paperwork we received.
Before starting the trip back home, we popped into an outlet of one of the two chains that run sort-of-drugstores and bought what turned out to be their last two blood-drip COVID home antibody test kits and got a Flu and RSV test kit for free. The latter uses nasopharyngeal swabs rather than disposable lancets. Incidentally, we used our own re-fillable lancet rather than the little single-use ones included in the kit.
Our strategy has, as always, been to focus on eating healthily, exercising, getting as much rest as possible, and adhering to a regimen of dietary supplementation that includes Vitamin D. Thus far, it has served us well. Given the strategies being employed by the authorities, however, our actual health status has little bearing on whether or not we’re scooped up by the local COVID-fueled bureaucratic-industrial complex.