sanitising products

Hong Kong: April 2020

In Hong Kong at the beginning of Coronavirus it was all about stockpiling and  face masks.

This was in February right after Chinese New Year.

The government offices are closed… the library, the swimming pools … and the kids don’t have to go to school.

But socially we were still the same. We still go to meetings ….to the construction site,  and we still had to go out to get groceries.

Mid-March, the UK Prime Minister talked about  creating ‘herd immunity’, which freaked out all the Hong Kong people living overseas who then fled back to Hong Kong.

So even though they were supposed to be  ‘self-isolating’ at home for fourteen days some still went out for lunch.. for fish balls… noodles.

Then last week there were cases in Lan Kwai Fong and also pubs… and some gyms as well. Now the government has banned the sale of alcohol in pubs and some restaurants –  mainly pubs. And this is hurting the economy.

In Hong Kong, if they suspect you have the virus they send you away to quarantine in a place in FoTan.  

It is a brand new  public housing block. There is no-one else living there and they use it like ‘quarters’  so people can be monitored.

These are special measures. 

But the bizarre thing is we still have to go out to work.

We can still go to restaurants. 

In Hong Kong we normally have a plate of rice for lunch – we don’t eat sandwiches much. Now they are saying that every table can only have four people and each table has to be 1.5 m apart. 

You can imagine how many tables there are in one of those tiny tea houses.  I suspect half of the restaurants will close after this virus.

This is the downside.

In Hong Kong everything comes down to economics. 

I don’t think we could live if all the restaurants were closed. It is so convenient. And now the food delivery industry is booming.

I have to take the bus and the MTR ( tube) to work every day.

On public transport everyone wears a face mask. 

We are so paranoid right now… with sprays and cleaning things.  We are using a lot of wet wipes and face masks.

Just imagine how much rubbish we throw away every day! 

We are lucky compared to others. We still have some freedom to go out. 

In Thailand they have a curfew after 8pm….  But if you ask me not to go to work, I think it would drive me crazy!   

I have a project currently on site which is supposed to be finished by May. 

We have regular meetings with everyone –  even the client, contractor, supplier.  They are quite happy to meet.  It gives them something to do.  But new projects have been postponed because the market has gone down.

People are afraid to open new shops and new restaurants and the shopping malls are not reducing the rent.

child studying

We had a discussion with my son’s teacher today about security leaks using Zoom. In the US they found out it was sending data back to China.

Hong Kong, like the rest of the world, uses Zoom for online meetings with the teacher. We were trying to tell the teacher not to use it, but they say it’s useful and free of charge. 

 It seems the school is not going to change.  They say it doesn’t matter  – it’s just the kids computer and homework and there’s nothing to worry about.  

This is how they think.

This whole experience shows how much we humans rely on media platforms.

Maybe some are OK but  I think there is a downside to it.  Even though we can see people (virtually) we are talking through a machine.

My son is gaining weight.

He eats a lot and is not exercising.  At home he has to do online school work, but he also plays Minecraft… 

Looking on the bright side… we’ve now got more time to spend at home. 

One good thing is that he has finished most of the Harry Potter books.  He only has two more to finish the whole series – in English!

We bought him the whole Harry Potter series on DVD.  I said to him if you read half the book then we can look at half of the video.

When you read the book you get so much more from it than from the film. He is then able to tell me no, no, that bit is wrong!

My son is also making models with his dad  – those Japanese models. He is picking up how to do it. There are some good things about this lockdown.

We have 3 bedrooms.  Me and my husband share. My dad has his room and my son shares with our domestic helper. 

My father spends most of his time in his room listening to the radio and watching TV. He loves to follow the news – especially because there is so much going on right now in the US… Italy.

Sometimes I have to drag him out… every night when I come home after work.

When I go out for work, on the bus, MTR I don’t see many elderly people. They just don’t want to go out.

My helper doesn’t go out now right now.

The Government says it is dangerous for  domestic helpers to gather in houses or in the street… so she is  happy to stay inside.

At night-time we play cards together and we enjoy that a lot. We would never have done that before – maybe at Chinese new Year when we had more time. 

Every day after work I go to the supermarket  to check for toilet paper, rice.. And also to buy some canned foods or fresh veg.  

View from home to hillside

We have lived here since my son was two – that is, about eight years.

We have a view of the hillside and can see across to Lamma island.

The building has 36 floors. It is quite densely populated.

People are in the lifts together. What can you do? But here we all wear facemasks.  

I do some yoga at home. 

My son also does some stretching. He has a scooter and we go out once a week if the weather is good to ride by the seaside.

All the kids are there, with facemasks, and playing like crazy.  

The Chinese New Year holiday was from the 17th January –  that was the last day of school. My son hasn’t  been at school for 2.5 months already.

At that time things were not so serious and we just went out to visit one family.

My dad is 87. We went to see his sister and were very worried because there would be two elderly people but luckily my cousin wanted them to spend time together.

They chatted for two hours and then we went home. We didn’t go anywhere else.  

My dad can no longer go out to do his tai chi exercises. He misses that social contact.

My domestic helper misses her Sunday gatherings. 

I miss my class mates…. 

Your teacher? …Not really.

Your school? … A bit.

We have conflicts and quarrels about the TV time but  we still have “me time” in our own rooms. 

The virus causes so much extra hassle when you come home.

Boy with sanitising spray

When we come in the family members at home use a spray to spray us from head to toe before we come through the door.

And then they pass us  a 99% bleach spray to use on the soles of the shoes. We take our shoes off carefully and place them on a special mat in the foyer/hall.

We cannot touch anything at all. 

Then they will pass us a hand sanitiser and we take off  everything like our watch, bag, phone and put them onto the floor.

And then straight away we take a shower.

We wash our hair and take off all our clothes and put them into the wash.

We come back to the foyer and clean the phone, bag etc. with alcohol wipes.  Now there’s so much you have to do.

Boy with cleaning spray

For us, it is our responsibility because we have one kid and one elderly person living here.  I would say it is bearable. 

 We have to be fair to them, to protect them. 

We spend a lot of money on all these cleaning products.  I assume it’s the same for everyone.

Recently my dad and son had to take the bus to go somewhere and it freaked me out. So I brought along a spray and sprayed  the bus seats like a crazy woman.  

I don’t like it, but I have to do that.  It’s a weird phobia…

When this is over I look forward to going to the beach –  without a facemask. 

We went hiking this morning early.

We have a trail quite close to us and we took off our masks and …..that moment…of fresh air.  

For me… it will be all about being able to go out and have a drink and a normal social life. 

This virus is very different from SARS. Very different.  That was quite straightforward.

At that time there were one million fewer people here in Hong Kong and much less travel to/from China. People didn’t travel so much.  

Globalisation makes things more difficult, and leads to consequences. 

How long will this continue?

Hong Kong people are superstitious. There is no answer or conclusion. In WW2 people also had a very difficult time. Some people here compare this to WW3.

shoes outside apartment

We like to follow feng shui (Chinese geomancy).

I know this is not ‘scientific’, but according to  feng shui calculations of this year,  we are talking about Coronavirus continuing until after June.

We are slowly getting there. But some people are talking about September. …. I don’t know.

This has never happened before.

Even though we stay at home there is an anxiety that we all share, that is to stay safe. Everyone gets anxious.

All photos by respondent.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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