A few months ago, I boarded a plane from New York City (where I was visiting my partner and siblings) to Hong Kong (where I’m from).The last time I was in the United States was in January; the first known local case of Covid-19 had just been detected in Seattle and the virus was beginning to spread across the West Coast. The World Health Organization hadn’t yet declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
By October 2020, the States passed a bleak milestone of recording more than 210,000 coronavirus-related deaths — the most in any country in the world.Hong Kong is one of many places that have barred Americans from entering. But, as a Hong Kong resident, I was allowed to go home, under the condition that I would undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel.
I had to choose a place from a list of 17 hotels pre-selected by the Hong Kong government — and pay out of pocket.
Hong Kong’s Department of Health has designated the US and other countries including Pakistan, India, South Africa, the UK and Russia “high risk.”
Travelers coming in from these countries have to present a set of documents at arrival. These include a hotel booking, a nucleic acid test report showing that the passenger has tested negative for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before departure, a signed document issued by the laboratory administering the test, and a certificate from the clinic or laboratory proving that its respective government recognizes it.Unlike in Hong Kong, where almost any health care provider can test and return results to patients in a few hours, finding a hospital or clinic with a similarly speedy turnaround in New York — let alone in the US as a whole — was trickier.
Public hospitals in Hong Kong can test patients for $22.50; testing in private hospitals is more expensive ($300 but include detailed lab reports). Without health insurance, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the “gold standard of Covid-19 testing” and most popular among travelers — could cost up to $300 in the States.After days of research — digging around on Google, calling clinics and relying on friends and family for information, I found a hospital that was familiar with the Hong Kong government’s requirements.
I scheduled a virtual consultation with a doctor who gave me the green light to book a PCR test. This doctor would, later on, sign and stamp the documents for my flight home.