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May 11th, 2009
10:04 AM ET

Quarantined in a hotel for seven days

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Mark Moore was quarantined in a Hong Kong hotel for seven days."]

The number of deaths across the world linked to the H1N1 virus, or “swine flu,” has passed 50. China is now reporting its first infection. The Chinese have taken extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the flu strain.

In Hong Kong last week, nearly 300 people were quarantined inside a hotel after a guest got sick. Mark Moore was one of those quarantined guests. He spoke to Carol Costello on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.

Carol Costello: You were in Hong Kong, in a very posh hotel, having a great time. And all of a sudden… what happens?

Mark Moore: To be honest, I didn't know what was happening. I was in my room doing e-mail and my brother called me and he said you realize your hotel is under quarantine the last two hours, which nobody had notified me. The whole hotel was locked down. Everyone in the hotel had to stay there.

Costello: What did you do when you got the word from your brother? I mean eventually the hotel management came and took you to a certain area. Tell us about that.

Moore: We were all tested. We had our temperatures tested. We were all taken to a common area, which I think some of us questioned because if there were sick people in the hotel, surely it would have been better to keep us in our rooms and test us individually in isolation. We were brought down to the mezzanine floor and we were tested en masse.

Costello: So they took your temperature…

Moore: Nobody by the way was sick.

Costello: Nobody was sick except for that one guest. So what did you do for those seven days?

Moore: Seven days, we were pretty much confined to our room. This is a business hotel. Very few facilities. No swimming pool, no gym. The only restaurant was converted into a consultation area and the ground floor into a distribution area for food and for consultation with sort of general inquiries and the police. Nobody was allowed into the hotel. Although we were allowed to get food deliveries and parcels delivered into the hotel whilst we were there.

Costello: What would happen if you tried to leave? Did anybody threaten you?

Moore: There were police on the door. One entrance and one exit. Everything else was locked down. The windows were all basically curtained off so even the press, the media couldn't see into the hotel.

Costello: The Hong Kong government said “We all understand the boredom, the frustration, they [the guests] experienced during the quarantine period. Many of the guests have expressed understanding of our measures. We truly appreciate that and we are thankful for the sacrifice they have made for the sake of public health.” They're very sensitive in Hong Kong because the SARS outbreak occurred there and many people died. So how do you respond to this, that they are thankful for the sacrifice you have made for the sake of public health?

Moore: I understand everyone’s a little nervous and there's still a lot to understand about this disease. And I also understand that they're very sensitive after SARS. I was in Hong Kong during SARS and for sure there's a real concern within the Hong Kong community. However, I think the general consensus in the hotel amongst the guests was that we accepted having been quarantined but after two, three, four days with nobody showing any symptoms, we were pretty much sure that nobody was sick and nobody was going to get sick and we wanted to leave.

Costello: I saw the pictures of you guys finally being released from the hotel. People were hugging one another, they were crying, they were celebrating. What was it like among the guests in there? Were you going completely nuts?

Moore: The guests were remarkably well-humored. Everyone that I saw at least was very peaceful and held themselves together very well. And I also like to thank the front line staff, the government officials, the police, the hotel staff in the hotel, everyone was extremely well-mannered and polite and tried to make our stay as easy as possible, I would say.

Costello: We're glad you're finally sprung and we hope you go back to Hong Kong.

Moore: It’s good to be out. I think everyone will go back to Hong Kong. The only point was that the normal epidemiology, the incubation period for the disease as we understand it is three to four days. There's a question mark amongst the guests, why the quarantine period extended to seven days? After a couple of days, everyone started removing their masks, everyone was confident we were all healthy and well, drinking wine with one another and socializing. However, I guess the rules came down from Beijing that the hotel had to stay closed for seven days.

Filed under: Health
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. C

    Whoa whoa whoa... Hong Kong isn't an irresponsible idiot when it comes to global crisis management. It could have been simple if it can just "arrest" and "deport" anyone with symptoms or suspected to have contacted persons with symptoms. But who knows what H1N1 could have brought to the welfare of the hotel guests and the flight passengers? What if someone turned out very sick because of contact? What if the virus spread to Hong Kong, then to the rest of the world?

    Color this with politics if you might, but the world knows for sure: The Mexico government has been INCOMPETENT in handling the disease– medically, politically and diplomatically.

    May 14, 2009 at 1:36 am |
  2. Hap

    This is forced imprisonment, and it is utterly unacceptable. There is no reason that Hong Kong officials could not have simply moved the tourists to the airport and sent them home (which could have been done safely under quarantine). Hong Kong has the right to deny non-citizens to remain in Hong Kong; but not the right to imprison law-abiding tourists. One wonders what would have transpired had some emergency, such as a fire or an earthquake, took place that affected the hotel during the quarantine imprisonment of these people.

    I also would be astounded to learn that the U.S. government was not quite willing to provide U.S. military air transport if for some reason Hong Kong officials did not want to arrange for commercial or chartered flights out.

    May 11, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  3. tre

    gotta love people like lisa.... and when measures like this aren't taken, then they blame the government for no doing enough. Especially, if it happens to them or someone they know... it's in times like these I like to say...."shut up!"

    May 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  4. C

    Adding to my post – Dear Conspiracy Theorists: No, I am not related to Sean and I don't work for CCP. I just happened to follow the news from HK where councilmen and media freely criticized their Food and Environmental Health Department .

    Yes it seems a big overreaction, but it's because ignorance and inexperience had failed to contain it.

    I congratulate Moore for witnessing how Hong Kong handled the recent and last outbreaks.

    May 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  5. C

    Outbreak or not, it's still free to do businesses in Hong Kong! No need to worry about Mainland politics!

    I think seven days is a medical standard, it's a reasonable precaution for the worst because World knows Mexico had lost controlled.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  6. renee

    I expect that this kind of over-reaction will only make it more difficult to gain full civilian cooperation in the event of a more serious situation. How will we choose to handle the next flu season...if "regular" flu kills thousands each year and we do nothing, while H1N1 kills 10's and we do all of this. It really makes no sense regardless of what country you are in. I also don't buy the "based on money" argument...I could be persuaded, but would need to have some real facts and not paranoid impressions.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Alex

    Out of curiosity, media folks, how were the hotel and restaurant staff treated? After all, these would be much more likely than other customers to come into contact with the infected individual (I know that when I travel for business – and this was a business hotel – I harldy see anything of the other customers).

    Therefore, were they quarantined as well or was the sole purpose of the exercise to show the local population/remainder of world "see, we can be as aggressive as needed in dealing with this".

    May 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  8. John

    Lois, As someone who's spouse has been working long hours at CDC to try and help keep this under control, I can say, it is NOT based on money. Did you know that most physicians who work at CDC take a 30% to 50% cut in pay from what they could make else where? Money is not a motivating factor there.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  9. David

    I think they handled it the right way. Although it was an inconvenience to the hotel guests, it assured the safety and well being of the rest of the population in Hong Kong.

    I think you have to take a hard line sometimes since people don't always follow recommendations and as a result, you get into a situation such as that American lawyer who flew to Europe and infected people around him with his higly contageous TB.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  10. Lisa

    So Sean Chong – you work for the China government? Sorry – but it seems like a big overreaction.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Lois Cloward

    Correction to my last sentence. Our borders should have been closed as soon as the United States government was made aware of this outbreak. I would also like to add that I don't trust the WHO or the CDC after following this illness. I believe that these organization have made their recommendations based on MONEY.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  12. Rich

    It sounds like this was handled well, on the whole. I'm rather impressed.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  13. Lois Cloward

    I am a United States citizen and lived in China during the Sars outbreak and traveled to Hong Kong and Japan during this time. The Asia governments were more on top of the protection of their people than the United States has been in this flu outbreak. We can learn from China, Hong Kong, Japan and screen and quarantine the ill. Our borders should have been closed as so as the United States governement was made aware of this outbreak.

    May 11, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  14. Sean Chong

    Don't be alarmed. This is the right approach developed during the SARs outbreak. Trust these professionals, they know what they're doing. This is how Asia deals with such outbreak, and it has been very effective. Just trust them, even if you don't like.

    May 11, 2009 at 11:54 am |