The number of rooms priced at less than HK$500 a night at government-approved quarantine hotels is set to more than double in mid-February, following a rash of complaints that a lack of affordable options had effectively left hundreds of Hongkongers stranded overseas.
Four of the designated coronavirus quarantine hotels included on the initial list of 36, issued late last month, will be replaced with four others, with the updated roster representing a total of about 10,000 rooms – down from the original 12,000.
And while the total number of rooms priced at less than HK$1,000 (US$129) a night does not appear to be increasing – and indeed, may even be declining slightly – the share of rooms in the most affordable price range is set to rise substantially.
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Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said that in view of the tightened anti-epidemic measures requiring arrivals to be quarantined for 21 days – as well as the current ban on flights from Britain and South Africa – arrivals to the city might decrease, theoretically offsetting the reduction in the total number of rooms on the list.
“There will be some 2,800 rooms under HK$500 a night, compared to about 1,200 in the first round,” Nip said. “And for those under HK$1,000 a night, there will be about 8,500 rooms.”
The original list of 36 approved quarantine hotels included around 9,000 rooms priced below HK$1,000 a night, according to previous Post estimates.
Nip, meanwhile, declined to comment on the prices or performance of the four hotels being taken off the list, saying only that it was their individual commercial decision.
The four new hotels are the IW in Kwun Tong, the Ovolo Southside in Southern district, the Silka Far East in Tsuen Wan and the Silka Seaview in Yau Tsim Mong. They are replacing the Eco Tree Hotel in Sai Ying Pun, the O’hotel in Kowloon City, the Mojo Nomad Aberdeen Harbour and the Luxe Manor in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The four newcomers offer a total of 767 rooms, of which six are suites. The rates range from HK$480 per night for a single room at Silka Far East or Silka Seaview to HK$3,150 a night for a suite at Ovolo Southside.
The priciest room on the updated list will remain the 1,790 sq ft suite at Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Central. It costs HK$51,150 a night.
The most affordable will be the Ramada Hong Kong Grand in Tsim Sha Tsui, where a single room is charged at HK$400 a night.
Hongkongers who were overseas when the government changed its quarantine arrangements had complained that the supply of affordable hotel rooms was too low, leaving them, as well as many domestic helpers, unable to fly to the city.
Two weeks ago, Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, met with Food and Health Bureau officials to complain about the lack of cheap rooms for domestic helpers, requesting an increase in the number of rooms available at HK$500 a night or less.
“In fact, this [policy change] meets our request,” Cheung said. “In the meantime, I think it is good enough.”
“Before we are almost full, but now if they add four more hotels [at this cheaper price level] we have a greater chance of finding suitable accommodation.”
The participating hotels on the updated list have signed a two-month contract with the government, running from February 20 to April 20, according to Nip.
As in the first round, the government is guaranteeing at least 50 per cent occupancy for the designated quarantine hotels, and will provide a subsidy of up to HK$600 per room if that baseline is not met.
Nip said it was too early to say how much in subsidies the government had already had to pay hotels, as the contracts for the first batch of 36 would not end until February 19.
Since December 22, arrivals from outside China have had to pre-book their quarantine stays at the government-designated hotels. The current quarantine rules require travellers to spend 21 days in isolation, meaning even the cheapest hotel bills can run up to several thousand dollars.
Nip said that so far 38 confirmed cases had been detected among quarantining hotel guests.
Additional reporting by Ethan Paul