Smuggled messages from an orchestra in quarantine

Smuggled messages from an orchestra in quarantine


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2020

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is being held in near-prison conditions on Lantau Island after one player tested positive for Covid-19.

From the South China Morning Post:

They have been placed in the same section of the 1,080-room camp, each minimally furnished room the size of a standard shipping container. Jamming and group rehearsals are banned, obviously, given that nobody can leave their own rooms. But most musicians with smaller instruments have been trying to keep up with their daily practising habits…

For example, the first associate concertmaster and violinist Leung Kin-fung is woken up every morning around 3am because that is when the fire alarm system is tested, every day, and there is an alarm just outside his door. Some musicians who play larger instruments were banned from bringing them because the rooms are so small; a number of people were scalded by water that was too hot in the shower; and there is no Wi-fi.

One player who preferred to remain nameless says the food is “horrific” and that some colleagues had chosen to fast or just eat boiled eggs.

More here.


  • Jessica Pastrami says:

    Small price to pay to stay safe from this deadly virus.

    • Maria says:

      What???? Or was that a joke?

      • stevedore says:

        Calm your piss flaps down. Its not a death camp. If you really care so much then you should be condemning the wuhan won tons

    • Mike says:

      I’m no doctor but I’m 99% sure that testing fire alarms at 3 AM every day does not reduce the risk of COVID transmission, or improve outcomes in infected patients. If you know of a study saying otherwise, you’re welcome to share it.

      • stucco says:

        and it doesn’t help with scale practice

      • V.Lind says:

        I can see regular fire alarms, especially in a place that crowded, but why can’t they be n daytime when people are up? They’re going to hear them anyway — that’s the point of fire alarms — whether they are outside their door or not.

        These conditions sound Guantanamo-like, but given the size and population of HK, and the disinclination of HK people to obey orders, I can see isolated quarantine. An awful lot of Hong Kong people live in terribly close proximity, and a bunch of infected people could become super-spreaders in no time. I’m amazed the situation there is not much worse.

        Their two weeks must be nearly up. And if each person has a room the size of a shipping container, they have more room than most Hong Kongers would have at home — by a long chalk.

    • Birchley Poundbottom says:

      Ms. Pastrami is correct. I understand it may have been difficult for those musicians, but we are all suffering during this global pandemic. Indeed, to not have volunteered for this precautionary quarantine would have been quite selfish indeed. I can only hope that they practiced proper mask etiquette!

    • Cubs Fan says:

      It is NOT deadly. It’s highly contagious. Ebola is deadly, but hard to acquire. And people who have certain conditions (old age, diabetes, blood type A, obesity, etc) are much more likely to die. If you’re in good health and get proper care your chances of rebounding are upwards of 98%. Many viral diseases are much, much more deadly.

    • Hayne says:

      Sure Jessica. Keep telling yourself that. Geez…

    • SVM says:

      Pastrami is working under the assumption that individuals would act with complete candour regardless of the nature of any potential incarceration mandated in the name of public health. But how many people would be candid in reporting symptoms and getting tested if they were aware that they, and potentially a hundred colleagues, could be incarcerated in quarantine camps with such hideous living conditions? Some may even feel (rightly or wrongly) that catching COVID-19 would be preferable…

      This so-called “small price” could end up being a “false economy” if it results in more infections going untested/unreported/undetected. Or if it results in contagious persons violating quarantine (this proved to be the ‘chink in the armour’ of New Zealand’s strategy).

      • Dennis Pastrami says:

        So proud of my daughter for speaking truth to power despite all the haters. Read a book! Know the science! Wake up, sheeple!

      • Zeb Blastman says:

        What do you mean by chink in the armor?

        • SVM says:

          By “chink in the armour”, I mean a weakness in an otherwise robust strategy.

          It is my understanding that New Zealand managed to eliminate COVID-19 at an early juncture. In order to prevent its return, the country imposed mandatory quarantine on people entering from almost anywhere else in the world (there were some exceptions for certain Pacific islands that were, at the time, thought to be completely free of COVID-19). Unfortunately, the security around quarantine hotels failed to prevent some people from violating quarantine, and this resulted in COVID-19 spreading into New Zealand once again. In other words, it was the running/management/security of the quarantine facilities that proved to be the “chink in the armour”.

          Hence, my point is that the authorities cannot rely on people respecting quarantine requirements unconditionally. One can reduce the risk of non-compliance by ensuring decent living conditions (and having adequate security at the ‘cordon’). Thus, failure to ensure decent living conditions is categorically *not* a “small price to pay”.

          • Zeb Blastman says:

            I think this is partially propaganda. I don’t believe the musicians are in this bad of a situation. This sounds like fake news media playing the “classic” anti China card. I’m beginning to suspect this has all been a big ol’ baloney sandwich. Praying to almighty GOD that I am wrong. Thoughts?

    • Marg says:

      Hate to see what you consider is a ‘big price’ to pay.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Something for America?

  • anon says:

    It works. Wuhan is covid free.

  • Brian says:

    Am I missing something here? Why can’t they just quarantine at home where there’s the potential for healthy food and wi-fi? I get that Hong Kong is now under a totalitarian state but this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    • V.Lind says:

      You should see Hong Kong homes. The vast majority are HUGE apartment blocks. Just going out to buy food the average HK resident would run into DOZENS of people — hundreds after they had walked down the street.

  • John G. says:

    This treatment of the musicians is indeed brutal and extreme. There are some who would find the lack of WiFi service particularly unendurable and clearly calculated to break the spirit.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I know of people, otherwise exemplary calm and balanced, suffering a nervous breakdown during quarantine’s 2nd day without internet.

      There is a rehab institution in Frankfurt to help bank employees recover from internet withdrawel symptoms, where they use Arvo Pärt, veganism and mutual hugging sessions to get on the rails again. It’s quite expensive.

  • papageno says:

    I’m glad Trump got tough on China, those red commie bastards.

  • papageno says:

    Hong Kong people have never known democracy…either under British rule then or Communist rule now.

  • stevedore says:

    North American Orchestras whatcha gonna do? smell my fingers with the Wuhan flu