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November 2020

East-West

The full Tuen Ma line will open on June 27.  SCMP predictably came up with a strange headline: Hong Kong MTR: key section of costly Sha Tin-Central link to open by June 27 after repeated delays

A key stretch of the long-overdue Sha Tin to Central link, Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project, will fully open on June 27 after repeated delays and cost overruns, the city’s transport minister has said, while pledging the government will learn lessons from the saga.

Long overdue, yes, but the section of track (from Kai Tak to Hung Hom) actually connects Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan, not Sha Tin and Central.  I may have mentioned this a few times over several years.

RTHK got it right with its headline: MTR's Tuen Ma Line to get going on June 27 (yes, the name comes from the districts at the two ends), whilst HKFP had a rather oblique headline: Two new MTR stations to open next month, forming Hong Kong’s longest metro line.  I think the word you may be looking for is “completing”.  Or, more accurately, joining the Ma On Sha Line with West Rail.

I still think this is not a great name - at one stage there was a suggestion that it would be the East-West line, because it goes from the Eastern New Territories to the Western New Territories (and for part of it you’d only have to add a few letters at the start of the name, so that would save money).  It would avoid confusion with the Tsuen Wan line.  Or is that just me?


Super abundance of caution

Hong Kong has one of the best COVID vaccines (Comirnaty from BioNTech in Germany) freely available. 

Or if an mRNA vaccine with 91.3% efficacy isn’t to your liking, you’re in luck because the Sinovac vaccine, with an efficacy rate of just 50.7% is also available. 

Political theatre is never far away and all true patriots are choosing the vaccine from the PRC (though there’s another, more practical reason - if you need to travel to the PRC). 

Both vaccines offer remarkably good protection against severe disease and death, and side effects are minimal, but the vaccination centres are not operating anywhere close to capacity.

There are many reasons why people are not choosing to get vaccinated.image

  • Is it because Hong Kong has had less than 12,000 cases in total and only 210 deaths? 
    • Probably yes.  The risk of getting COVID here is very low
    • Singapore has had more cases than Hong Kong (but far less than many places) and more than 80% are willing to take the vaccine and they are way ahead on the number of jabs.
  • Could it because the media here report on deaths of people who have had the vaccine?
    • That certainly doesn’t help. 
  • Maybe it’s because many medical professionals don’t seem keen on the vaccines. 
    • I have to say that I find this fairly shocking
  • Clearly it can’t be because people don’t trust the government. 
    • We all know that the National Security Law is a good thing and those pesky demonstrators should all be in prison.  Glad we’ve cleared that up.

Here’s a Twitter thread with a link to an article with more information:

image

Or there’s this article from HKFP: Don’t trust the science or don’t trust the gov’t? Why many Hongkongers are shunning Covid vaccination.

Meanwhile, the government has been applying a super abundance of caution in quarantining so-called “close contacts” and almost everyone arriving in Hong Kong.

The definition of “close contact” was extended to everyone living in the apartment blocks of variant cases, because, well, just because.  This led to thousands of people being sent to one of the government camps for 21 days. 

They did back down on this after numerous complaints and no actual cases being detected.  Oh, and some dodgy food.  They also reduced the number of days quarantine for anyone who is fully vaccinated.  But there are still quite a lot of people being sent into quarantine.

There has been a minor relaxation for quarantine of arrivals.  Recently, the UK was moved from group A2 to B, meaning that if you are fully vaccinated you “only” have to stay for 2 weeks in one of the approved hotels.  Australia and New Zealand are currently in the lowest group (14 or 7 days) but this list keeps being reviewed so you can never be certain.

Last year the default was home quarantine with electronic monitoring:  they gave you a bracelet to wear and you had to install an app on your mobile phone.  This option was withdrawn for the UK in October, and for almost everywhere else in late December, so you have to pay to stay in a hotel room with no fresh air (and lousy food in many cases).  There is a choice of hotels, but many are fully booked, particularly in the coming months when students will be returning from studying overseas.

Apparently the Joint Scientific Committee recommended that home quarantine should be re-introduced, but this was vetoed by the CHP.

Some interesting comments from Ben Cowling (Professor at the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong), who proposes that the government should:

set a timeline to end quarantines-on-arrival, say, after September. That means Covid-19 will find its way back into the community sooner or later — and if that happens without vaccine coverage it means more restrictions and social distancing, except for those who are vaccinated. And at the same time, we immediately allow vaccinated people to skip quarantine.

Seems logical enough.