Facing the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong, Asia's financial city, is full of worried crowds thronging its busy streets, subways, waterfront parks and skyscrapers.
With masks in short supply, Hongkongers line up at big drugstores to buy medical masks and toilet paper. Some wait in line silently with blank expressions on their face, while others berate business owners after standing in line for hours, and are still not able to buy masks. Since the Hong Kong government has not fully closed their borders, starting February 8, Chinese entering Hong Kong from the mainland are forced to undergo full quarantine, and self-segregate for 14 days. The rush to escape to Hong Kong before the neighbouring city of Shenzhen closed its borders also heightened fears among Hong Kong residents.
Around the Lunar New Year, people in Hong Kong became aware of the threat of the new coronavirus. In the past, only anti-extradition protesters wore masks. Now, men and women, young and old, whether they're walking on the beach, climbing mountains, or skating at an ice rink, all wear a mask, becoming a city-wide movement. But the number of masks available is miniscule. A box of 50 masks that used to cost only $50 HKD ($6.45 USD) has spiked to over $300 HKD ($38.60 USD).
The SARS outbreak of 2003, which resulted in 1,755 confirmed cases and 299 deaths in Hong Kong, is still a vivid memory for Hongkongers.
The government has set up checkpoints at many public transport entrances and exits to check the temperature and health of people coming and going, and ensure that people travelling in between China and Hong Kong don't turn the city into a disaster area. However, Hongkongers have been critical of the government's epidemic control measures, especially the "toothpaste squeeze"-style closures, which even led to a three-day strike from the local medical union.
By the evening of February 9 (when this article was first published), the number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong had reached 38, including one death. Medical staff have been wearing protective clothing at Hong Kong hospitals. Clocking in and out of work, commuting to the office and back, and scraping by just to make a living, Hongkongers are facing abnormal daily routines with paper-thin masks and uneasy hearts.
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