Pandemic COVID-19: Situation in Hong Kong

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26 May 2020

In December 2019, there was already news report that a mysterious pneumonia appeared in Wuhan city, Wu Bei province. However, the alert level in Hong Kong was low as Chinese Government declared that it would not spread from human to human and everything was under control.

It was until late January when Chinese Government declared a lockdown of Wuhan and enforced straight social distancing that panic spread to Hong Kong.

Some 10% of Hospital Authority (HA) employees went on strike to beg the HK government to close the border between HK and mainland but the government only partially closed the borders after about a week and vowed to take actions against those who went on strike. People were lining up in the small hours in front of medicine stores, hopefully able to buy some surgical mask. Hand sanitisers and bleaching solution were in short supply. Even toilet rolls and rice became scarce resources. Hong Kong had experience the SARS in 2003 and people were highly aware of the importance of wearing mask and social distancing to protect themselves.

The Hong Kong Government enforced social distancing about 4 weeks after lockdown in China, only allowing people to gather in groups no more than 4 people. It also established isolation/quarantine facilities. However, most returnees from overseas were only ordered to have home quarantine but some of them did not follow the quarantine order. The situation got worse as the virus spread to other countries and pandemic declared by WHO. Tens of thousands of HK youths studying in overseas flocked back to Hong Kong and caused a second waves of infection in Hong Kong and the Government then declared closure of some entertainment facilities such as beauty parlour, karaoke, bar, fitness centre and cinema.

The general comments from the public about the response of HK Government were: too little and too late. The Government claimed that the responses were timely and according to change of situation. It will be historians to have the final comment.

I think the only government office that were not under fire from public is the Department of Health (DH). Since the outbreak, the department held daily press conference hosted by officers from DH and HA, to inform the public about the number of confirmed cases, deaths, patients in critical conditions, recovered patients, occupancy rate of isolation beds and hygiene advises. The amount of PPE available to HA staff was posted regularly to all HA staff. DH is testing all returnees to identify carriers and strict isolations for those with close contact. Hong Kong is enforcing the policy of test, isolate and quarantine, much similar to that of South Korea and Taiwan. This may be one factor that these 3 places are able to have the virus under control with low infection rate. However, the down side is there will be a lack of herd immunity.

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