Quarantine Facilities: A Miracle Journey

The Q Miracle

On January 25 this year, the Government of the Hong Kong special administrative region activated the Emergency Response Level of its Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance to contain the spread of COVID-19, which is highly infectious and fast-spreading. The Government has implemented a comprehensive and coordinated approach to protect the health of the community. One measure is to make suitable premises available for quarantine. The Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) had been tasked with building a large number of temporary quarantine (Q) facilities as quickly as possible with a view to obviating risk from the rapid and wide spread of virus in the local community. As the Director of Architectural Services, I am pleased to report that the Government has completed ten projects to date, with more than 4000 Q units delivered, through the collaborative effort of inter-departmental teams and construction industry stakeholders. This may be one of Hong Kong’s construction miracles. What made this possible?

The Unsung Heroes

On the same day that the Government activated the Emergency Response Level, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year (大年初一), I received an emergency call requesting ArchSD jointly undertake an extremely urgent task with the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) for the delivery of a large number of temporary Q facilities in record-breaking time. It was a great challenge to accomplish this task within only a few months, let alone less than a month, in the midst of the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. All the factories in Mainland China that supply most of the construction materials were closed because of the Lunar New Year holidays or COVID-19. We also needed to study the requirements for these unique Q facilities with healthcare experts, the readily available construction methodologies and materials with contractors, and safety and hygiene control, such as rescue and waste disposal strategies, with all the relevant authorities. To make this impossible mission possible, a major multi-disciplinary project team was established to undertake the vast volume of liaison work, technical studies, design development, fund procurement, contractors and supplier acquisition, contract management, and site supervision within an extremely tight timeframe.

Needless to say, ArchSD was fully supported all along by all stakeholders, including various government bureaus/departments[1] and contractors. In particular, the project contractors, including the frontline workers and supporting and site supervision staff, deserve my wholehearted applause. They all performed diligently and rigorously 24/7, regardless of the harsh working environment, cold, heavy rain, extreme heat, typhoons, to complete the Q facilities as soon as possible. We were also extremely concerned about the welfare of the construction workers and frontline staff onsite. We provided anti-pandemic precautionary measures at construction worksites. In addition, healthcare advisers made suggestions on the enhancement of health and hygienic measures, including the provision of briefing sessions from time to time to frontline workers on the latest updates in workplace health education information. With the concerted joint effort of everyone, we achieved zero infection rates at all Q sites. These are the unsung heroes, the countless workers who bravely shouldered the responsibility of making this impossible mission possible.

Magical Cohesion

Throughout the process of delivering the project, strong cohesion among the government departments and construction industry was fully manifested. A partnership with a clear division of responsibilities became ever more indispensable to the accomplishment of this urgent task. We worked as ONE Team. All shared the goal of delivering the Q facilities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, save lives, and protect the health of the community. There was no luxury of spare time. Everyone made the greatest effort to expedite the progress of the Q facilities. For instance, while the CEDD focused on site formation work, ArchSD prepared the design, and contractors initiated fabrication in factories. For these unique and meaningful Q projects, a high level of support was fully given.

Together — We Fight the Virus Again

In July, the number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong began to rise abruptly. There is thus a further urgent need to construct additional Q facilities. ArchSD and the CEDD were again working together and completed an additional 2000 Q units in Penny’s Bay within a tight timeframe, resulting in a total of more than 4000 Q units delivered. We need to be well prepared in case if the winter wave comes.

Looking ahead, we honestly believe that the whole construction industry can come together to work for the benefit of Hong Kong at large amid the highly uncertain global pandemic. I see the solidarity, the love, and care from everyone for Hong Kong in the delivery of the Q facilities. Together, the construction industry is building to fight the virus.

[1] Bureaus/Departments include the Development Bureau, the Food and Health Bureau, the CEDD, the Buildings Department, the Fire Services Department, the Health Department, the Drainage Services Department, the Water Supplies Department, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Environmental Protection Department, the Transport Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, and the Civil Aid Service.

Our CE visited the site to show her appreciation and support.

Intensive coordination meeting with the client department and the contractors to meet the user’s operational needs.

Joint site inspection with client department to ensure the quality of Quarantine Camps within the tight time frame.

All levels of members in ArchSD work together to complete these construction miracles.

Installation of MiC prefabricated units from day to night.

The unsung heroes completed 118 units in 26 days at basketball court of the Lei Yue Mun Park, Hong Kong.

We care the health of the workers.