July 20, 2020
So here we are on Day HowLongHasThisBeenGoingOn of COVID-19.
Things in Hong Kong have changed significantly recently with 500 new cases in the last two weeks, mostly locally transmitted and many of unknown origin.
Things are particularly bad in East Kowloon. There were 40+ cases in restaurants in Tsz Wan Shan Shopping Centre and 50+ in two elderly care homes (a big problem in the UK, Sweden and elsewhere).
It can’t be a coincidence that this is happening a couple of weeks after many of the restrictions were lifted, including the re-opening of gyms, and more people being allowed in bars, karaoke, restaurants, etc.
Some say it’s the 200,000+ who have come to Hong Kong without being tested or having to quarantine for 14 days. One theory is that “case zero” in this wave was a taxi driver taking someone from the airport, and it was then spread more widely via a 茶餐廳 (Cha Chaan Teng). It’s not surprising that people can get infected in a small café.
But wait, it turns out it wasn’t that - it was the pro-democracy march on 1 July and the primaries on 11 & 12 July. All those people outdoors wearing masks, or briefly indoors wearing masks.
It definitely wasn’t the 100 - 200 people attending a dinner in Mong Kong on 9 July and not wearing masks, including 40+ people dancing. This was on a day when 42 new cases were announced and people were reminded to follow the guidelines, which (at that time) included a limit of 50 people gathering in one place.
Maybe if you’re celebrating the return of Hong Kong to China those rules don’t apply. But at least four people at that dinner have contracted COVID-19 and it seems certain that there will be more.
The government announced several measures last week, including the limit on social gathering going back down from 50 to 4, the closure of schools (because that’s what they always do), and all bars, gyms, cinemas and karaoke lounges had to shut down. Restaurants are not allowed to operate between 6 pm and 5 am - because obviously people are more infectious at night.
Many wondered why the government wasn’t asking civil servants to work from home, and they eventually got around to doing that on 19 July. The significance of this is that it would encourage other employers to follow suit.
It was ever thus - at the beginning of all this when we first heard rumours of a SARS-like disease in Wuhan, everyone started wearing masks on public transport and in shopping centres - and the initial response of the government was that this was a bad thing. Hmmm… Now, many months later it is compulsory to wear masks on public transport, and yesterday this was extended to all indoor spaces. The government seems not to have to have enforced their new rules, but they are definitely planning a meeting to arrange for that.
Unsurprisingly, people rushed to supermarkets to stock up on rice and toilet rolls, but without any major supply issues that should pass fairly quickly.
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