Coronavirus – A Hong Kong Perspective

Coronavirus photo adopted from Johns Hopkins Medicine

Out of the blue, the virus has suddenly broken out in Wuhan.

It was the worse of time, as it was around Chinese New year when millions of people are heading back home for the festival. After the CNY, these people will be heading towards their work places too. This will spread the virus.

It was the worse of places too. Wuhan is in the middle of the Middle Kingdom. A busy hub with travels by various modes North-South and also East-West.

This means the virus can spread quickly in China and to Hong Kong and other places too.

Hong Kong, which suffered from SARS in 2003, was quick to become alert. People here still remember how they fight against SARS and what it did to social life and economy.

Some people went into panic mode; hoarding surgical masks, toilet paper and even rice. They know that there will not be sufficient masks – both on a regional level and on an international level. This panic has spread to other countries like Australia, South Korea and the US too. This reaction appears to be a normal sheep mentality.

Simple arithmetic will tell you that the 11 million people in Wuhan will require millions of masks throughout the epidemic. Millions more will be required by the rest of China, the world and the medical people who are the first line to treat and fight the battle against the virus. While China produces half of the world’s surgical masks, they will not have sufficient even for their own use.

Hong Kong and Wuhan are directly connected by flights and the high speed rail. The flight takes about two hours.

Hong Kong is linked to the neighboring areas of the mainland by ferries, the Big Bay Bridge and several border crossings which had daily crossing of people / tourists of 5-6 digits figure and lots of goods and supplies. These people include Hong Kong residents living and working in Mainland who may daily / frequently make journeys between the areas.

China was quick enough to lock down Wuhan, Hubei and some major cities, so that people movements from these areas to Hong Kong are stopped. Hong Kong did not close the border with China for worrying that some of its own citizens and goods / supplies are not able to enter HK.

By stages, the local government closed its connection with mainland China, only leaving the airport and the road connection by way of the sea bridges; even the high speed rail was closed. Supplies and food remain unaffected.

The worse for HK came when some 2000 medical personnel including doctors went on strike for several days, demanding what they call “more democracy”. This is unprofessional or even immoral.

What did HK citizens do:

Stay at home, work from home if possible. Schools stopped until further advice. Congregation of people stopped; government run public sports and recreational facilities stopped. “Social distancing” was well observed. The city almost came to a standstill. Luckily, the financial markets are not affected.

At home, sanitize the flats / houses. The exhaust from sewage pipes are known to spread virus. Pour water into the drain holes to keep the U pipes wet.

Contrary to many countries’advice, most people here wear masks especially in crowded areas, wash their hands and use hand sanitisers, no more hand shakes etc. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose.

Surgical masks are not sufficient and not available in local pharmacies. Those on the market have their prices raised astronomically. Some masks are made locally by prisoners ( rewarded with wages) for the Hospital Authority’s use. They are not for sale to the public.

People started ordering them from overseas everywhere. In the whole 40 days, I didn’t buy any toilet paper, rice etc but I did order masks from overseas which left me somewhat frustrated in the process.

I ordered masks online from Amazon, 1Outlet of Singapore and a fake site aliexpress, which pretends to be Aliexpress. The first two refunded me my money when their stock ran out. The third one imitates Aliexpress and hosted 10-20 sites all very similar to Aliexpress.

I knew it was a scam the moment I ordered as they didn’t even give me a reference number and there was no way to communicate or stop them. The money was deducted from my credit card and they have all my card details. I was forced to terminate my credit card for fear that they still use those details. This created some inconveniences as some of my regular subscriptions were linked to the card.

In the meantime, the number of confirmed cases increase. Presently, it stands at just above 100, with two deaths and dozens cured and discharged.

Many of the confirmed cases occur in clusters; for instance, they met at places of worship or at banquets. The government has decided to use their super computer to track those who are suspected to be infected. This has helped very much with their tracking down.

Suspected cases which are negative or people who in close association with those confirmed patients are quarantined, for 14 days. Selfish people protested and demonstrated; not allowing those quarantined to be anywhere near their homes. Government then decided to use some newly constructed public housing flats to accommodate these people. In addition to this, government quickly constructed some hundreds of prefabricated buildings for their accommodation.

Meanwhile, the government sent three chartered flights to Yokohama to fetch those HK citizens who are trapped on board of the Diamond Princess which was berthed at Yokohama.

In the last two days, government has also chartered several flights to bring back citizens who are trapped in Wuhan and nearby areas. These people also need to be quarantined for 14 days.

WHO have praised China for their response to coronavirus. Recently, they praised HK and Singapore for the promptness and effectiveness in handling the virus. Hong Kong medical experts and personnel, as well as citizens are well equipped with the SARS experience to fight this battle.

For various reasons, some other countries like USA and Japan are not actively testing the patients for the virus, resulting in under reporting of confirmed cases. UK goes for a weekly reporting. This makes these countries less safe than perceived.

Does this affect my travel plans? Yes, very much so. We intend to travel 27 March to Kyoto, Japan to see the blossoms. Just today, Japan advises that all HK citizens travelling to Japan will be quarantined for 14 days and are not allowed to take the public transport. This kills my Japan tour and you will not see any pictures of the beautiful blossoms which I intended to post on this blog.

I have also booked my April flights to Amsterdam, hotels in Amsterdam, a Rhine River Cruise with one of the operators, I also booked the pre-cruise visit to the K Gardens to see the tulips and the post- cruise trip to Switzerland before coming back to HK. Again, you will not see their photos!

The opertaor now says passengers from HK will not be allowed on the ship, thinking that these people are virus carriers. In fact, in HK, there is only about 100 cases of confirmed infection and dozens have cured.

I can understand the ban on China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or maybe even the US; to ban HK citizens are just laughable as condition here is mild and very much under control.

It is even more unreasonable to ban Macau citizens from traveling too as they don’t even have one reported case of the virus in the last 27 days. All patients are cured and discharged. In my view, the ban is more related to politics, economy and other motives.

We can always plan to the finest details but it is the creator who actually give us His final plans.

So I am now left with the mess of canceling the flights, the hotels, the pre- and post- sightseeing. I will suffer financially too as some hotels / flights have indicated they can accept a deference up to a certain date but not cancellation and part refund.

The local CDC has today advised that we should defer our international travels as about 10 people has recently been infected overseas before returning to HK.

So, now I have all the time in writing up all these; something which is rare for me! It will indeed be a memorable experience.

The more severe areas of coronavirus lie within latitudes of 30 – 50 degrees north. The temperatures and humidity are said to be the main factors for the virus to propagate. The temperatures in the northern hemisphere will be rising in the next few months, hope this helps.

Well, I am sure coronavirus will be over, if we are lucky, by summer time πŸ™‚

59 thoughts on “Coronavirus – A Hong Kong Perspective

  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective from Hong Kong, Michael. I just heard in the last half hour that we in the U.S. are so far behind England and South Korea in testing. It’s not a comfortable feeling. I’m sorry about your travel plans.

    • “Test and you shall find” – that’s what our expert says. Not testing vigilantly doesn’t mean people are not infected. These people can infect others at an exponential rate, unfortunately. Time is of essence, I hope US will gear up for the testing and the treatment as this is no ordinary flu.
      Thanks very much for always being among the first to Like my post; this is very much appreciated.
      Travelling helps me to lower my stresses, can’t help though if countries decide to ban us from traveling at this juncture. I can still continue with my local hiking.
      Regards, Michael

  2. Enjoy reading your post. Covid 19 started in Wuhan, but it is not the source of infection. If you are interested, you are welcome to read my post on the same topic.

  3. Thank you for sharing with us dear Michael. You explained well what’s going on there… World really lives unbelievable days, almost like being in science fiction film… I hope and wish soon everything turn to normal days… In here, in Δ°stanbul (Turkey), we haven’t (yet) heard any infected case… but all our neighbours had… and we stopped some of flights… and also closed some of borders… But yesterday our Health Minister announced that who comes from abroad have to be in their home for 14 days as a quarrantine at home… At the airport there is a health team and they check the passengers too… A few days ago one of our plane to Singapore has been taken in quarantine at the airport because one of passengers were infected by virus. The passenger coming from Δ°stanbul by our plane but he/she was a transit passenger… coming from London… Singapore warned us and also UK… After this event, our ministery announced this, I mean whoever comes from abroad will be in his/her home for 14 days as a quarantine… This situation brings many details to them I mean to the passengers… a business man staying at home for 14 days at home… bureaucratic details, etc. But seriousness of this virus showing us connection, travel,… is the first point for the spreading… I hope and wish world stop this as soon as…. Be in safe dear Michael… Thank you again, Love, nia

    • Hi Nia, our initial cases were from Wuhan / Hubei or lately from passengers who have been on the cruise liner Diamond Princess.
      Today, we have two more new cases. One who has travelled to London and Paris on business, the other visited the western part of India and Mumbai.
      The local CDC advised today that we should defer our travels, for fear that travellers may come back to HK after infected overseas.
      I am now happier to delay my travels.
      Regards, Michael

    • I can understand you dear Michael. It is not a good situation for all of us now… Thank you, Love, nia

  4. Thank you for this great post, I thoroughly valued reading it. I have been very disappointed with the media’s coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak so I have recently published an article on my blog about what we should be worried about and how we can protect ourselves and others. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post and let me know your thoughts! Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Hi, have read through your great post. I especially like the part you talked about how to interact with the elderly people who are most vulnerable to the virus. We must not go to congregation where there are lots of people in a crowded or even closed environment – like churches, banquets etc. It is also not a time to travel, especially by way of ships. Regards, Michael

  5. Michael thanks so much for sharing this view from Hong Kong. Here is the US it seems they are either dismissing it as a bad case of the flu or saying it will end the human race… I like to hope it is in the middle. Having both asthma and fibromyagia I worry about contracting it, but I dont make it out in the public too often so I am hoping I can avoid it. Once again thanks for this post! Stay healthy!

    • Hi Leigh, I think it is something in between. The earlier we intervene it, the less damage it is going to inflict. You are right, better stay most of your time at home, don’t travel, especially long distances, increase your immunity and stay healthy πŸ™‚

  6. Sorry about the cancelation of your plans. I kn ow how much you value traveling. And of course, some operators will take advantage and not refund. But then I expect the world travel industry will take a major dive… Many crazy decisions are being taken. Why do we leave politicians in charge? 😩
    Hopefully it will be under control this summer. (We already have our tickets for Paris. Fingers crossed)
    Take care Bro.

    • Our cruise operator, who ban us on board, will allow a cancellation subject to admin charges ( of course, one can argue what we still have to pay for these charges). Our flights to Amsterdam for boarding are not cancelled by the carrier. They will require a cancellation fee to do that. We booked for hotels in Amsterdam ( which are quite expensive) are non-refundable but can be deferred. Don’t really want to go alone to AMS without the cruise.
      Their policy are inconsistent. Why allow Singaporean to be on board when they have double the number of confirmed cases in HK, when they only have half our population? Why passengers from Macau are banned when they have no active cases and no new cases for almost 30 days?
      I suspect EU will have many more cases as citizens within many of these countries are free to travel. πŸ™‚

    • I agree. It’s all absurd. Shows how mankind is not ready to make decisions based on facts. Well, I hope this settles soon and that you can get most of your money back.

    • I am sure the hotels at AMS would not allow us to have the money back. They desperately need occupancy. Anyway, wouldn’t spend too much efforts on the chase, otherwise would get upset. Regards, Michael

    • Very little, but it is starting here. And my mother-in-law is 90+, we don’t want to bring a virus that we might catch on the plane. Or leave for a week and be blocked there by emerging restrictions. France and Europe just blocked all inbound flights. And closed schools and universities. etc… I think they took too much time. We’ll see what happens.

    • Yes, very prudent decisions, one must not risks oneself or close family members and friends. We are now living in a world full of risks and gosh, DJI fell 3000 points last night!

    • Just wondering what is the latitude of your place. It seems the more severe regions with coronavirus are between 30 -50 degrees north in latitude.

    • Looked it up. (I have a vintage 1947 map of Asia on the wall…) HK is on the 22nd Parallel. Mexico city on the 19th parallel so that’s quite close.

  7. You may already know of what I share in this comment but it may benefit some who subscribe or visit your blog; To counter high volume of panic news, I’ve posted a most encouraging video explaining; β€œPeople don’t die of influenza, they die of chronic vitamin C deficiency – view and save lives now

    • There is a lot of development, locally and globally since I posted. We are under a second wave of attack from people / students / tourists returning from the West. This proves more severe than the first wave and which we are still struggling with.

  8. Hello, fellow Hong Konger here! Thank you for this post; I understand your struggle very well. Fortunately, things are looking brighter now thanks to our hard work! Looking forward to your next posts! δΈ€θ΅·ι˜²η–«οΌ

    • Glad that you like the post.
      I guess not many Hong Kongers write about it.
      Many overseas readers may not realize that we have done exceeding well in terms of metrics like deaths / 1M population etc.
      I may write a further post as things progresses.
      Many thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I saw a video yesterday circling ’round Instagram spreading false news about Hong Kong – so it seems to be true! Your posts will definitely be a great help in halting that πŸ™‚ No problem, looking forward for your future posts!

      I have actually posted a similar article about my experiences in Hong Kong with Covid-19 back in February, hope that you can check it out by the way!!

    • I am glad that you are blogging at such a young age and with perfect English.
      I think we should objectively tell the world what is happening here and clear some misunderstand and bias.
      Keep up the good works; will drop by again.
      Keep safe and be happy πŸ™‚

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