Carrie Lam and Murphy's Law

February 04, 2020 12:45
Striking medical workers gather outside the Hospital Authority building in Kowloon on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

While governments are busy battling the coronavirus outbreak that is ravaging the mainland and spreading in many parts of the world, economic activities are also being severely affected as movements of people and goods are hampered by flight bans, border closures and other restrictions.

So what happens if people continue to stay at home for fear of catching or spreading the disease?

Many companies in China and Hong Kong have allowed their staff to work from home through phones, emails, text messages and video chats.  

But, of course, that won't work for many jobs such as manning shops, catering food, driving vehicles, etc. Still, done on a massive scale in China, it would perhaps be what Bloomberg describes as "the world’s largest work-from-home experiment".

Clearly, governments also have to address economic dislocations brought about by the anti-coronavirus measures.

Shanghai, for example, has come up with several measures, including unemployment insurance, training subsidies and social insurance payments, to help residents cope with the economic impact of the outbreak.

In Macau, mortgage payers are allowed to delay their principal repayments for up to six months. This has prompted the Alliance for Car and Property Mortgage Payers in Hong Kong to plead to banks to allow a similar arrangement, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

In the case of Hong Kong, perhaps it's a bit too much to ask our government to offer us some kind of relief, given that they could not even assure us of an ample supply of surgical masks.

Besides, the government has just shelled out billions of dollars in economic relief to sectors affected by the months-long protests.

These are indeed the worst of times for Hong Kong, but nothing that we cannot overcome.

For Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the social unrest and the coronavirus outbreak appear to have conspired to make her life even more miserable.

Hospital workers, who are on the frontline of the fight against the outbreak, went on strike to force her to order a full closure of the border with the mainland, and decided to pursue their action despite Lam's latest moves to close all border crossings, except for three – the Hong Kong International Airport, Shenzhen Bay crossing and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge – all on the west side of the city.

And as if to stress the gravity of the situation, Hong Kong on Tuesday reported its first coronavirus death, a 39-year-old man who had been suffering from an underlying illness and had visited Wuhan in January.

The protesting medical workers argue that they cannot effectively stop the spread of the virus if the border with the mainland remains open, accusing the government of taking half-hearted measures to contain the virus because it doesn't want to offend Beijing.

Lam, however, insists that some border crossings must remain open to allow the entry and exit of goods and services and for the sake of many Hongkongers themselves who either work or do business in the mainland.

Our medical practitioners and workers have earned the respect of Hongkongers for their selfless dedication to duty, but many of them somehow feel that they are not being treated well by the incumbent administration.

No words of appreciation and gratitude for them had come out from the chief executive's mouth, that is, until Monday when she directed her praise to the hospital staff who have remained on duty.

It appears that Lam regards the medical workers as among the protesters who have been hounding her administration and their strike as having been engineered by the pan-democrats.

She hasn't even thought of offering them cash incentives, which is in stark contrast to the generous pay hikes she is giving the police force.

We sincerely hope, however, that Murphy's Law won't be proven right again as far as the Carrie Lam administration is concerned, that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer