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.

Domestics helpers gathering in Central on Sunday May 31. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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.

Domestics helpers gathering in Central on Sunday May 31. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Meanwhile, most schools in Hong Kong temporarily reopened at the end of May, though campuses were modified to prevent crowding.

Students sitting apart as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus during the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) Exam on May 16. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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.

A secondary teacher holding an online zoom lesson in an empty classroom on May 29. Photo: May James/HKFP.
Students using hand sanitiser before entering schools on May 29. Photo: May James/HKFP.
Students on a footbridge during the lunch hour on June 9. Only half day school is required for secondary, primary and K3 Kindergarten students. K1,K2 and younger students will not return to school for this academic year. Photo: May James/HKFP.
Cross-border students wearing face masks return to Mainland China after classes in Hong Kong on June 15. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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.

People wearing face masks and sit apart while riding a rollercoaster in Ocean Park. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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.

Social distance markings in yellow tape are used at a theme park. Photo: May James/HKFP.

However, three more deaths were recorded within three weeks amid a third wave of infections.

Photo: May James/HKFP.
A beach scene on Saturday, June 20, after the government significantly eased its coronavirus social distancing measures, upping the limit on public gatherings from eight to 50 people. Photo: May James/HKFP.


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.

Central on Sunday May 31. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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.

White separators reinforce social distancing at a food court on June 14. Photo: May James/HKFP.
A shopper looks at a hat with face shield at a street stall in Hong Kong on April 7. Photo: May James/HKFP.
A shop assistant cleaning items on June 19. Photo: May James/HKFP.
A woman wearing a face mask walks pass discount signs which read: “Less Gathering, More Offers!. 20% off for all takeaway orders”. Photo: May James/HKFP.
A child plays in a public playground fenced off with security tape. Photo: May James/HKFP.
Every member of the family wears a face mask. Photo: May James/HKFP.
People enjoying the sunset and taking selfies in face masks near the mainland border in Hong Kong on June 15.
Photo: May James/HKFP.
A Food and Environmental Hygiene Department contractor takes part in cleaning and disinfecting of a wet market on July 20, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Photo: May James/HKFP.
People eating at stairs outside a shopping mall in Hong Kong on July 30, 2020. Photo: May James/HKFP.
A lady carrying take-away passing a non-dine-in cafe in Hong Kong on July 30, 2020. Photo: May James/HKFP.
Citizens sitting two by two as social distancing measure against the coronavirus in a restaurant in Hong Kong on August 23, 2020. Photo: May James/HKFP.
People wearing face mask as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus as they queue up outside restaurant in Hong Kong on August 23, 2020. Photo: May James/HKFP.

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