Mother Hubbard Hong Kong

March 10, 2022 10:23
Photo: Reuters

I returned to a Hong Kong that I barely recognise.

The airport was like a giant film studio after everyone had departed, cavernous, empty and chillingly silent.

Airport security staff stationed strategically to channel the thin stream of arriving passengers towards the Health Department’s screening process appeared more like automatons herding cattle towards the abattoir.

It took time for it to dawn on me that it was the very silence that exacerbated the sense of isolation.

The contrast with Madrid’s Adolfo Suarez airport and Doha’s Hamad International airport could not have been more stark; whereas everyone in all three places were masked and socially distanced, Madrid and Doha were vibrant, animated, engaged.

Driving through the deserted streets, shuttered shops, closed bars and restaurants, their illuminations extinguished, it felt as though the city had been abandoned.

Having learnt lessons from the first quarantine last Autumn, this time the view from my hotel room was across the harbour towards Kowloon, but that revealed yet more evidence of a deserted city.

Movement in the two wholesale markets is sporadic and minimal, the knock-on effect in the shops needs no imagination.

The listless harbour presents a frozen cameo of paralysed lighters, their only movement caused by the tide swinging them imperceptibly on their anchors.

Everyone who can, stays at home, venturing out only for necessary supplies, provided that they can find any.

What has happened to the resilient Hong Kong spirit? Mere mention of a lockdown and the supermarkets look as though they have been hit by a cloud of locusts.

It does not induce a sense of calm when official announcements about whether or not, and if so when, there will be a lockdown, are as fickle as an alcoholic’s promises to abjure drink.

What is now the world’s highest Covid mortality rate is mainly amongst the elderly unvaccinated inmates in care homes, which obviously must have come as a massive surprise to the authorities.

Seen against the background of the recent history of appalling conditions in some of these institutions, the misery visited upon these elderly folk compounds the disgrace.

For a city as wealthy as Hong Kong, the utilitarian conditions in which these people survive the winter of their lives, was already an indictment.

For those afflicted by the contagion and compelled to lie outside hospitals a thin, cheek by jowl under the open skies in what for them must be freezing temperatures, beggars belief.

The final acts of stripping away human dignity from these old people, the vast majority of whom had contributed to the obscene wealth of the property magnates for whom Hong Kong was a magic honeypot, is an obscenity.

Right from the start it was an undeniable scientific fact that the most vulnerable constituency are the elderly.

It is in old age that the body’s natural resistance to the entire range of morbidity sinks to its lowest and conditions that a healthy younger person can weather, prove incontestable for the aged.

A campaign to achieve maximum vaccination for the elderly, especially those in care homes, needed to be designed to assuage fears, inspire confidence in clinical advice and the incalculable benefits of what is inaccurately labelled a ‘jab’ when it is barely a prick.

In lieu of such a clearly crafted campaign, mixed messages, false or misinterpreted data on social media added to official vacillation, fed the fears of both the elderly and their families.

How could this have been allowed to happen?

The measured advice of the leading microbiologist Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung was always a constant quiet voice of reason and common sense.

Hong Kong people’s response to SARS-2 was self-disciplined and demonstrated a sophistication level that would respond to informed and properly calculated guidance. Why was that proven capacity for rational response not acknowledged?

Have you heard anyone in authority actually say “We didn’t see it coming”?

In April 2020 Dr. Gabriel Leung co-authored a paper in The Lancet which observed: The totality of massive social distancing and population behavioural change interventions has huge costs, in terms of both actual expenses and economic opportunity loss, in addition to having traded away individual freedoms and sustained severe societal disruptions.

Is this not where Hong Kong is now? Prey to baseless rumour and economically eviscerated.

All the feverish activity to test everyone three times, whether or not the Riot Police are there to enforce it, is no substitute for an optimal level of vaccination to enable the city to try to get the blood flowing back through its economic and psychological veins and to protect the elderly.

It took the mainland expert Liang Wannian to open the cloth ears that were deaf to Hong Kong’s own internationally recognized experts.

Why is the cupboard condemned to remain bare?

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Queen's Counsel