Hong Kong frees 300 after week-long hotel quarantine

Fri May 8, 2009 10:37am EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong authorities freed nearly 300 guests and staff of a hotel Friday evening after quarantining them for a week in an attempt to contain a new influenza virus.

Guests clapped and screamed as they left the Metropark hotel after police lifted the lockdown at 8:30 p.m EDT.

Punching his fist into the air, Kevin Ireland, a businessman from India exclaimed: "I'm out, I didn't like it, not at all but I am very relieved now."

But Ireland added he was very satisfied with the way the government treated him. A group of about 50 Hong Kong residents near him waved flags and shouted "Welcome Home!" to the guests streaming onto waiting tour buses.

Some called it an unforgettable experience but others like Spaniard Francisco Javier Boada said: "It was very boring."

Many guests in the hotel were initially outraged to be quarantined for a week in the hotel where a Mexican man confirmed as the city's first and only H1N1 flu victim had stayed, but some later let their hair down.

Thursday night, many guests ripped off face masks to dance and party the night away with beer and wine in the downstairs lobby, toasting journalists camped outside.

Speaking to reporters just before the quarantine was lifted, Health Minister York Chow said: "Their health is normal and they have all received health certificates ... I want to thank them on behalf of all Hong Kong people for helping us ensure that Hong Kong is safe."   Continued...

<p>Guests who were confined inside the Metropark Hotel celebrate at the entrance as they are released in Hong Kong May 8, 2009. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>