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Filipino family among 400 Caribbean Coast residents sent to quarantine

01 May 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Puentespina family at the start of their long quarantine at Penny's Bay

Hong Kong oldtimer Raul Puentespina had just got home from work to Block 11 of Carmel Cove in Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung around 7pm on Apr 29 when he noticed a bevy of media people with cameras waiting in ambush outside the lobby.

He also saw vans and lorries parked outside the block with dozens of medical assistants and technicians setting up tents on the street-side. He immediately knew something was wrong and residents of the block would be tested for the coronavirus.


But what Puentespina, a 55-year-old court interpreter who for several years had been a sales manager at San Miguel Corp’s Hong Kong unit, did not expect was that he and his family would undergo more than just a swab test. So did about 400 other residents of the block.

So after going up to his flat in the 65-storey tower he went back downstairs, hoping to pick up some foodstuff at a Fusion supermarket, but he was not allowed by police to leave the building.

Pindutin para sa detalye

He then realized that the people he saw moving around early on and were now wearing face shields and PPE protective robes were medics from the Centre for Health Protection who were conducting swab tests on residents of Block 11. Many more of them were testing or interviewing building residents under the blue tents.

At the command post were Dr. Ronald Lam, controller, and Dr. Albert Au, principal medical and health officer at CHP, who were issuing updates on the incident.

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A leaflet that was handed out to the residents told the stark story: A domestic helper who lives in one of 416 units on the block had tested positive for the South African strain of the coronavirus. A 10-month-old baby girl she was looking after was also preliminary positive. Thus, all residents of the building must be tested.

On his way back to his flat, one of the CHP ushers at the lobby accompanied him and told him to be ready for the test.

Pindutin para sa detalye

“As I could not leave the block, I rang up my two daughters who were on their way home from work. I asked them to stop over at the supermarket and buy the items that I wanted to buy,” said Puentespina.

They waited after dinner to be fetched by the CHP people, but they fell asleep waiting and woke up around 5am when they heard their neighbors already leaving their flats.


“We thought we were just going to be tested. We had no inkling that we’re going to be put in quarantine after the swab test,” he said in a phone call from the quarantine center.

He said that after the test, they were escorted back to their flat and told to prepare for a 21-day quarantine. So they stuffed some food, clothes, bed sheets and pillow cases in their bags and waited for their escorts.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Around 10am, somebody came up to fetch and escort them to one of the white vans that would take them to the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre on Lantau Island.

There's an impressive food menu at Penny's Bay, says Puentespina

The site has several rows of squat light-material buildings that were built in haste last year originally to serve as quarantine houses for new arrivals from foreign places.

There the Puentespina couple and their four children were given three adjacent units, each housing two members of the family. The units were clean and neat, each fitted with a bathroom and toilet.

The beds were single-sized with plastic-wrapped mattresses that they must not peel off, according to the site staff.

Pindutin para sa detalye

“It’s good our flight stewardess friends who had been quarantined advised us long before this happened that, should we go into quarantine, we should bring our own pillow cases and bedsheets,” Puentespina said.

He said members of his group were given a supply of cup noodles and bottles of water upon arrival. Food should not be a problem, he said, judging by the variety of meals to choose from on the menu.

“We were shown a menu of food that we wanted to be served to us, so we made our choices,” said Puentespina, who was very impressed at the range of procedures that he and his family were put through until they got to the center.

“I noticed how efficient and systematic the CHP people were from the time we were processed at Caribbean Coast. They have a good system,” he said.

The system was so efficient indeed that, while the shuttle bus that was taking them to quarantine was still on its way to the Penny’s Bay facility, the CHP was already texting them that all six members of his family had negative test results, Puentespina said.

“The CHP said that all of us who were brought to this quarantine center had tested negative, otherwise we would have been taken to another place if we were found positive,” he said.

Puentespina said he expects their long quarantine to be boring, but he and his family members have thought of some activities that they could do to get them through the ordeal.

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