How Hong Kong Responded to COVID-19
Ina Cho August 9, 2020
By now, everyone is fully aware of the global pandemic that has altered the dynamic of the world. Since it first emerged in China in December 2019, Covid-19 has infected millions of people globally and killed hundreds of thousands. The virus has forced governments to enforce complete lockdowns in an effort to hinder the spread of the virus. This has completely changed the daily lifestyle of the average person. While many countries faced horrible repercussions from the virus, Hong Kong has surprisingly kept cases and deaths to a minimum in spite of its close proximity to the epicenter.
The first confirmed Covid-19 case in Hong Kong appeared on January 23, 2020, marking the first case of the virus outside of China. The first wave of occurred after this. Until March 1, the confirmed cases remained under 100 and the curve was generally flatter than any other country. This was remarkable given its vulnerable position, primarily due to its role as a central hub for business and transport.
Hong Kongers learned their lesson from the 2003 SARS outbreak and diligently implemented the current pandemic protocol early on. In early January, even before the first confirmed case, the citizens began to wear masks daily and grew conscious of social distancing without governmental demands, while also consistently washing and sanitizing their hands. Soon after, on February 5, the government closed off borders (except for the Hong Kong International Airport, Shenzhen Bay Control Point, and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge) after a five-day strike by front line medical workers. Anyone coming into Hong Kong from abroad had to take mandatory tests for Covid-19, and the government strove to alleviate the sudden hit on the economy with grants and subsidies.
On March 20, Hong Kong experienced 48 new confirmed cases, the highest number of recorded cases in one day since the testing began. This was due to the sudden influx of people coming into Hong Kong; out of the 48 new cases, 36 had recent travel history. On March 25, the government closed the border to any non-Hong Kong residents and imposed a mandatory two-week quarantine for incoming travelers. On March 27, a “four-person rule” was announced, which banned any social gatherings or activity consisting of groups with more than four people. Gyms and public spaces closed for the time being, while restaurants were forced to set their tables at least 1.5 meters apart. This was the largest wave of the virus for Hong Kong.
While the citizens of Hong Kong remained in the dark for a while, hope was restored in mid-April, when the number of new cases each day began dropping significantly. On April 27, Hong Kong reported no new cases for two days in a row. Schools were rumored to reopen in late May, and on May 5 the “four-person rule” was raised to eight people. The daily life of the average citizen gradually started to go back to normal.
As of June 7, there are 1,107 confirmed cases, but only four deaths. Overall, the way the citizens laboriously implemented effective preventative measures and government’s reaction helped hinder the spread of the Covid-19. Hong Kong showcased the right way to respond to a healthcare crisis and set a remarkable example for the rest of the world.