Darryl Chan tested positive for Covid-19 when he landed in Hong Kong last month. More than two weeks later — and despite never showing any symptoms — he remains isolated in a hospital bed with no sign of being allowed to leave.

“I think the worst part is not knowing when I’ll be able to get out,” he said. “You’re almost feeling you are back at school, with controlled wake-up and bedtime, (and) not being able to control what you can eat.” Hong Kong, along with mainland China, is one of the few places in the world still pursuing a zero-Covid policy. The city’s priority is reopening borders with the mainland, not the rest of the world, Hong Kong authorities have said.

That means most non-residents are banned from entering, while almost all overseas arrivals must undergo 21 days of quarantine — even if they are fully vaccinated. Hong Kong deems travelers from the United Kingdom as a high-risk for the Omicron variant, subject to its most stringent quarantine and testing measures — which include spending the first four days at a government camp.

On December 19, Chan flew to Hong Kong from London to start a new job. Chan said he was fully vaccinated with a booster shot and had tested negative for Covid-19 several times before his flight. He was mentally prepared for quarantine, but not for what happened next, he said. On arrival in Hong Kong, Chan took a mandatory Covid-19 test and waited hours at the airport. His result was determined “preliminary positive,” meaning he was required to take another test. He was then moved to a cordoned-off area with a makeshift bed.