Tragic death of actor during hotel quarantine raises concerns about Hong Kong’s strict COVID-19 policies

The Kowloon Hotel (pictured) is one of Hong Kong’s designated quarantine hotels. Photo: Google Maps
The Kowloon Hotel (pictured) is one of Hong Kong’s designated quarantine hotels. Photo: Google Maps

The tragic death of a renowned Hong Kong actor while he was undergoing quarantine in a hotel room has raised concerns about the city’s strict COVID-19 policies.

Tributes have been pouring in for Kenneth Tsang, who was found dead alone in a room in The Kowloon Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui on Wednesday. 

He had recently returned to Hong Kong from Singapore and was undergoing quarantine in the hotel.

Jackie Chan, who had worked with Tsang on Rush Hour 2, wrote on his Facebook page about his admiration and respect for Tsang. 

“[He] was also an amazing role model for us juniors to learn from,” said Chan. “I was so shocked after hearing the news, and deeply saddened.” 

Media personality Chip Tsao said Tsang was someone capable and had quite the personality.

Tsao also slammed authorities for the inhumane quarantine policies. 

“If it weren’t for the stupid and anti-humane mandatory hotel quarantine, his wife and family would be by his side and he might have escaped the tragedy, or at least have someone around (when he fell ill),” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Tsang’s ex-wife Barbara Tang told Now News that Tsang called their daughter Musette Tsang on Tuesday night, mentioning he was not feeling well and needed some medication.

Their son-in-law delivered medication to the hotel, but Tang said they were unsure whether the medicine was delivered to Tsang. 

Tang also said that her daughter called Tsang on Wednesday morning, but no one picked up the phone. So her daughter contacted the hotel staff to check on Tsang, Tang added. 

Tsang’s ex-wife said the family wanted the hotel staff to open the door after no one answered for 15 minutes, but the hotel staff said they could not open the door without first checking with the Department of Health. 

Tang said her daughter then called the department, which told the hotel staff to open the door. 

By then, Tsang was already not breathing, she added. 

When asked by reporters about Tsang’s health on Thursday, Musette Tsang said her father was a regular elderly person, with ailments such as high blood pressure. 

Health authorities said in emergencies or for safety reasons, employees of designated quarantine hotels may enter the room after wearing personal protective equipment and do not need prior approval from government departments, but they must notify authorities afterwards.

Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat called on authorities to consider the possibility of home quarantine for the elderly and chronically ill patients.

She said that many residents have told her about their concerns regarding the risks of senior citizens undergoing quarantine in hotels.

“It is very dangerous if they suddenly fall ill,” said Quat, adding they might die because they were not saved in time. 

She also urged authorities to group elderly patients and those with chronic illness in a few quarantine hotels or facilities and to deploy more personnel to check on their health, or use technology such as smart wristbands or emergency alarm systems. 

Hong Kong has one of the strictest quarantine policies in the world with inbound travelers vaccinated against the coronavirus required to quarantine in a designated hotel for seven days

Inbound travelers with special needs can get prior approval from health authorities if they need a caretaker during their quarantine period. 

The caretaker and the inbound traveler have to be quarantined in the same hotel room and are not allowed to leave until the end of the quarantine period.

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