That was largely because of motion taken early on, whereas circumstances had been spreading throughout mainland China, to implement measures that at the moment are acquainted all through the world: virus mapping, social distancing, intensive hand-washing, and carrying masks and different protecting clothes.

Hong Kong was proof that these measures labored, with town of seven.5 million solely reporting some 150 circumstances in the beginning of March, even because the variety of infections spiked in different East Asian territories like South Korea and Japan, and unfold quickly throughout Europe and North America.

Now, nevertheless, Hong Kong is offering a really totally different object lesson — what occurs once you let your guard down too quickly. The variety of confirmed circumstances has virtually doubled previously week, with many imported from abroad, as Hong Kong residents who had left — both to work or research overseas, or to hunt security when town appeared destined for a serious outbreak earlier this 12 months — return, bringing the virus back with them.

On Monday, Hong Kong Chief Govt Carrie Lam introduced that every one non-residents can be barred from the territory as of Wednesday, the newest addition to a raft of latest measures.

This can be a sample enjoying out throughout elements of Asia — mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan — that had been among the many first to deal with the outbreak. All at the moment are introducing new restrictions as a sudden wave of renewed circumstances begins to crest.

In comparison with main cities within the West, like London or New York, residents in Hong Kong can typically really feel as in the event that they’re dwelling sooner or later. Most of the measures enacted within the Asian metropolis again in February at the moment are being rolled out in European and American cities.

However this newest lesson could also be a bitter capsule to swallow, because it signifies that quarantines and social distancing should proceed nicely past the preliminary wave of circumstances, if one other spherical of infections is to be averted.

For these simply going into lockdown, that might imply they’re in for the lengthy haul.

Office workers and pedestrians wearing protective masks walk along Queen's Road Central in the Central district of Hong Kong on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Waves of an infection

On March 2, after a number of weeks of working from dwelling, the vast majority of Hong Kong’s 180,000 civil servants returned to their offices. Personal employers, which have largely been taking their lead from the federal government, adopted go well with, and town’s subway system, although by no means precisely empty, was abruptly flush with folks once more.
This appeared like an inexpensive measure on the time. Whilst circumstances were on the rise in Italy and elsewhere, there have been then solely 100 confirmed in Hong Kong, and in mainland China the variety of new infections was starting to stabilize.

It was pure subsequently that individuals started to loosen up considerably, not solely going to work as a substitute of staying dwelling, but in addition having dinner collectively, going to the park, and attending weddings and different massive social gatherings. Whereas face masks had been nonetheless frequent, some folks could possibly be noticed going uncovered, significantly for brief journeys, and there was a normal sense of slowly getting again to regular.

Within the week that adopted the March 2 return to work, there have been solely five new cases in Hong Kong, most of which had been imported. Numbers remained low till round March 16, when dozens of latest circumstances had been confirmed. It quickly grew to become clear that whereas the bulk had been coming from abroad, quarantine measures in place weren’t enough, and native transmission had resumed.
Since then, town has been racing to get again on prime of the outbreak, with draconian new controls put in place, together with digital tagging of all new arrivals, who should endure a strict 14-day dwelling quarantine, and will face prison prosecution if they’re present in breach of it. Over the weekend, police could possibly be seen patrolling nightlife districts on the lookout for these violating quarantine, arresting at least five people, two of whom had lower their wristbands off with the intention to exit.
As of Monday, civil servants are working from dwelling once more, and plenty of non-public companies are anticipated to comply with go well with. One of many authorities’s prime well being advisers has warned that authorities could need to order a more comprehensive shutdown and supply monetary help to these affected, whether it is to include the brand new wave of infections.

All non-residents shall be barred from the territory as of Wednesday. The town’s worldwide airport may even now not enable vacationers to transit by way of Hong Kong. Anybody arriving within the metropolis should endure testing, no matter their origin. Many bars and eating places may even be closed, with preliminary restrictions targeted on these serving alcohol.

Arrivals at Hong Kong airport on March 18 seen wearing heavy protective gear against the novel coronavirus.

No time to loosen up

Talking Saturday, Lam mentioned that thus far town has “successfully and safely sailed by way of two waves of epidemic.”

“The primary wave was the concerns of transmissions from mainland (China), so now we have put in a whole lot of measures,” she mentioned. “The second wave was the native transmissions, with these clusters arising from dinners and different issues. Now we face the third wave.”

Lam mentioned that it was “solely pure” that because the variety of new circumstances subsides, folks begin “to loosen up a bit,” and that is what occurred in the direction of the beginning of March. However she mentioned that “in gentle of the altering circumstances and this most troublesome and difficult wave arising from a surge within the world state of affairs and the massive variety of returnees, then now we have to regulate.”

Singapore on Sunday launched stringent new restrictions on vacationers from abroad, as that metropolis too struggles with imported circumstances and a possible second wave. Taiwan, one other territory credited with successfully containing the preliminary outbreak, can also be adopting new measures to keep away from a spike in imported infections.

Within the Chinese language capital Beijing, all worldwide flights at the moment are being diverted to different cities in China, because the variety of imported circumstances continues to rise.

Asia is weeks, if not months, forward of the West in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. International locations throughout Europe and North America had been gradual to study from those that had already been by way of it, leaving themselves weak to the quickly worsening well being crises they’re experiencing now.

Hopefully they won’t ignore Asia’s newest lesson: even when it seems like the coast is clear, hold your guard up.

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