Fresh from the protest frontlines, HKFP’s May James has been roving around Hong Kong during the coronavirus outbreak, capturing how the city which survived SARS is coping with being one of the first territories hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
From early on this year, social distancing laws introduced an element of uncertainty for the nearly 400,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Many of them typically spend their days off gathering in the city’s public spaces. Foreign domestic worker Rubeena told HKFP in May that police officers had approached her and her friends to remind them of social distancing laws, though this only happened “from time to time.”
Under Hong Kong law, a foreign domestic workers must live and work at their employer’s residence, meaning that they can only venture out on their weekly day off.
Meanwhile, most schools in Hong Kong temporarily reopened at the end of May, though campuses were modified to prevent crowding.
After being delayed for about a month, public examinations were successfully conducted with precautionary measures such as mandatory mask-wearing, temperature checks, and health declarations.
The city’s two amusement parks, Ocean Park and Disneyland, reopened for a few weeks on June 13 with social distancing measures in place. Face masks and temperature checks were compulsory for all visitors, and all guests had to book in advance.
Following the dramatically eased social-distancing measures effective from June 16 – which allowed public gatherings of up to 50 people and the resumption of wedding banquets – the city managed to keep a lid on coronavirus infections.
However, three more deaths were recorded within three weeks amid a third wave of infections.
While there is no end date in sight for Hong Kong’s social distancing rules, the measures have become a firm part of the city’s cultural legacy. Hongkongers were already been accustomed to social distancing measures during the SARS crisis of 2003.
However, although mask-wearing and hand-washing had become part of the local psyche, Covid-19 may have changed Hong Kong in other ways that are unexpected and long-lasting.