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Legislator Kenneth Leung

2020-02-16
Dear Hong Kong citizens,
 
It is with a grim outlook that I write to you amidst our current public health situation with the novel coronavirus.
 
As of yesterday, the total number of confirmed cases in Mainland China is over 66,000 and the total deaths stands at over 1,500, both counts having long surpassed those of the Severe Acute Respiratory Snydrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003. In Hong Kong, we have 56 confirmed cases and 1 fatality.
 
Against this backdrop, it is exasperating to see the sluggishness with which the Government is acting in its handling of the outbreak. You would expect that given our experience with SARS and the gravity of this epidemic, the Government would have the foresight and acuity to combat the coronavirus in a more decisive manner.
 
While numerous countries took swift and concrete measures to stop the influx of people who have travelled to Mainland China, our Government continued to dawdle on closing Hong Kong’s borders to people entering from the Mainland, citing inexplicable reasons such as it would "not be very meaningful” and because such measures would be “discriminatory”.
 
Since the first confirmed case in Hong Kong on 22 January, the Government has taken a passive approach in controlling the influx of people from the Mainland. During that critical early stage, when most of Hong Kong’s confirmed cases were imported cases, there were already repeated calls from world-class experts and leading medical professionals to close our borders to people travelling from the Mainland. The Government only half-heartedly closed some of our control points on 30 January.
 
It took a first local infection case and our first fatality on 4 February to finally nudge the Government into imposing a compulsory 14-day quarantine on people entering Hong Kong from the Mainland.
 
Shortly after this measure came into force on 8 February, there were already various reports of people not complying with the quarantine order, with two of them even going missing and ending up on the police’s wanted list.
 
Although the Government finally disclosed that the police managed to contact the missing duo after several days, and warned the delinquents to stay home, the ease with which these people were able to flout the quarantine order undoubtedly exposes a glaring loophole in this measure and raises queries on the Government’s dubious reliance on those put under quarantine to be “self-disciplined”.
 
It is crucial to note that after Hubei province, Guangdong province has the second highest number of confirmed cases. The Shenzhen Bay control point, which is one of the major gateways between Hong Kong and Guangdong province, remains wide open.
 
We do not have the resources to deal with more imported cases and it is not fair to impose more risk to our overworked medical staff, who are already stretched thin, and running low on both morale and protective gear.
 
The Government must completely close all our borders to people entering from the Mainland. It is the only watertight measure to effectively cut off the source of this coronavirus. Every delay means more people infected and more resources required – both of which we simply cannot afford.
 
Speaking of affordability, never would we have thought that the price of a simple surgical mask would rise to such ridiculous levels.
 
It is a matter that keeps many Hong Kong citizens awake at night, literally. We’ve all witnessed the heart-wrenching scenes of Hong Kong people, especially the elderly, searching high and low across the entire territory and queuing up in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, for a small chance of securing some masks for themselves and their families. This is very absurd to witness in a world-class city like Hong Kong.
 
The Government needs to rationalize the supply of masks and its distribution. This is to ensure that every citizen has a basic supply of masks for their own protection. This was something that was easily done weeks ago by Macao and Singapore. 
 
Despite the Government throwing around various figures of how many masks it has ordered globally and how many masks are being produced locally, nobody really knows where exactly these masks are. They surely aren’t in the hands of the needy, as evidenced by the long lines outside various stores every day.
 
To improve transparency, the Government should provide a weekly update on the stock of masks produced by the Correctional Services Department, the remaining stock within the Hospital Authority, the stock procured by the Government Logistics Department, and the stock that is available in the market.
 
There is nevertheless a silver lining in this cloud of anxiety that shrouds our city - local stores, business organisations and various NGOs are handing out their painstakingly-acquired masks to the needy and less fortunate among us. Along this line, I would like to appeal to employers to not sending your staff to work in Mainland China. As a responsible and caring employer, please take care of your most valuable assets – your employees – and ensure that they are adequately protected. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
 
Lastly, please remember to maintain good personal hygiene – wash your hands frequently, stay home as much as possible, and if you do go out, wear a mask. However, please use our masks discreetly during this critical period.
 
The next time I write to you, I hope it will be during much better times. Stay healthy!
 
Yours, Kenneth Leung

 

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