This afternoon in Tsim Sha Tsui East -- people in masks
on the streets and also on a big screen
Everyone wearing masks on the Central-Midlevels
Escalator system yesterday afternoon
Also at the Central-Midlevels Escalator system:
dispensers of alcoholic hand rubs/hand sanitizers
Before I moved to Hong Kong, I never wore masks. Not long after moving to the Big Lychee though, I learnt that it's the "done" thing here to wear surgical masks when you have a cold or flu; a practice that came about as a result of Hong Kongers' experience with SARS in 2002-2003. And because of this, I pretty much always have a box of surgical masks in my apartment -- so that I'd have one on hand to put on when I have a cold or flu, or even after I've recovered but have a lingering cough.
As it so happened, I caught a cold a few weeks back and, after I felt okay enough to venture outside, discovered that my supply of surgical masks was running low. Around this time, people in Hong Kong were getting wind of a mysterious virus having infected people in Wuhan. So when I went to the pharmacist to buy a box of masks, I saw that the price had risen to more than usual. At the same time though, there were plenty of masks in stock. So I didn't need to go to more than one pharmacist to buy what I wanted.
On January 11th, the Wuhan coronavirus claimed its first victim -- as in someone actually died from, as opposed to "just" being infected by, it. Eleven days later, on January 22nd, Hong Kong had its first confirmed Wuhan coronary virus case. Especially after a number of Chinese New Year events got cancelled, both in Mainland China and Hong Kong, it got realized that things had gotten pretty serious.
As I write this blog post, 6,000 people are stuck on a cruise ship in Italy as a result of Wuhan coronavirus fears emitting from a passenger from Macau having fallen ill. And shortly before I started doing so, I also learnt that Hong Kong's 11th Wuhan coronavirus case was confirmed. Oh, and as of this morning, the death toll from this Wuhan pneumonia had risen to 170, with the number of infections officially recorded in Mainland China having outstripped that of SARS and coming close to 8,000 worldwide the last time I checked thewuhanvirus.com.
Suffice to say that there has been quite a bit of Wuhan coronavirus-induced panic going on in Hong Kong in recent days. Masks (surgical, N95, etc.) are now hard to find. Shops with stock can literally sell out of them in one minute (or even less)! Consequently, many people are running low on masks -- or facing the prospect of this happening in the near future, if they haven't already run out of the supply of protective gear that is not supposed to be re-worn and shouldn't be worn for more than 24 hours.
Sadly, it looks very much like Hong Kong is paying for Beijing preferring its administrative picks and political allies to be more loyal than, say, capable, intelligent and possessed of common sense. Consequently, one is presented with the spectacle of pro-Beijing polician Ann Chiang arguing that it's face masks can be steamed and safely reused (even when an actual health expert tells her otherwise to her face) and fellow pro-Beijing politician Regina Ip stating that she didn't see a need to wear a mask since, among other things, she had recently been in Indonesia and had been in business class on her flight back!
While it can be pointed out that a number of other territories are experiencing mask shortages (e.g., Malaysia and Singapore, which also have confirmed Wuhan coronavirus cases), it's worth noting that Hong Kong is an international logistics hub that surely wouldn't be having such a mask shortage and also mass panic if only its government were more efficient and trustworthy, and also actually care for its people (rather than just pretend to do so). Small wonder then that so many people want genuine universal suffrage -- so that they can get a government that is answerable to them, not just their overlords over in Beijing.