In the last three weeks the number of COVD-19 cases in Hong Kong has increased from around 270 to 1,001. That sounds a bit scary, but other countries have seen much larger increases over the same period (25x in US, 15x in UK).
The biggest factor by far has been the large number of people who returned from overseas, but there have also been “local” cases in Lan Kwai Fong and karaoke bars.
The government has responded in typically haphazard manner. Our great leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wanted to ban the sale of alcohol because “people get intimate when they’re drunk.” Hemlock explains that this was a typical over-reaction to a specific case of a “super spreader”. It’s a Hong Kong thing, to be sure, but we still have to take off our shoes for airport security checks in some countries because of one failed terrorist incident nearly 20 years ago.
Oh, and don’t be fooled by this headline (from news.gov.hk) CE explains alcohol sales ban - she doesn’t.
It took a few days for the government to figure out that they actually needed to close bars and pubs because, er, large number of people gathering in small spaces will spread COVID-19.
They also ordered Karaokes, clubs, and mahjong parlours to close but it took longer to get round to beauty parlours. Cinemas have also been ordered to close, even though they had already blocked alternate rows and were a long way from being full.
More sensibly, restaurants have to keep tables 1.5 metres apart and no more than 4 people can sit together. That’s obviously a rather arbitrary set of rules that works better in some places than others, and there have been suggestions that police have been rather over-zealous in applying this in “yellow” restaurants, but the basic idea is sound.
It seems inevitable that the restrictions will be eased based on the number of cases and then re-imposed (or possibly tightened) based on evidence of where it is spreading.
Visitors are also banned from Hong Kong and residents have to go to quarantine camps or “self-isolate” for 14 days after arrival.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is slowly coming round to the idea that wearing masks might be a good idea.
- Asia may have been right about coronavirus and face masks
- The Spanish government plans to hand out facemasks at metro and train stations from Monday as some non-essential workers begin returning to their jobs.
- In Austria, masks are being given to people as they enter supermarkets
- The CDC is suggesting people wear home-made masks
Of course, masks are just part of the solution, but it’s hard to see how anywhere can properly emerge from lockdown without them. “Social distancing” simply isn’t practical if you have large numbers of people in public places.
And, of course, there are other benefits: Hong Kong’s coronavirus response leads to sharp drop in flu cases