My mother always said, “Health is wealth, everything else is secondary”. If you look carefully, the only thing a human needs to exist on this planet is actually “good health”. Here, good health means good nutrition and exercise for the body, peace for the mind, control over stress and anxiety, and happy and cordial relationships with everyone around us.

Stepping into 2020, the world was gripped by Covid-19, a fast spreading, uncontrollable and incurable disease. The Covid-19 epidemic which became a pandemic and held humanity to ransom, bringing the world to a standstill – resulting in thousands of deaths globally and forcing lockdowns, social distancing, and travel restrictions. 

One of the few places which did not require a total lockdown to stem the spread of the infection, and which, very sensibly, surely, and rapidly, brought it under control, was Hong Kong. I work and reside in Hong Kong and hence recounting from a first-hand experience, initially the numbers of the infected started climbing steadily, but within a few weeks the curve was flattened and then humbled to zero. 

By early May, we had a case rate of 138 per million persons and a death rate of 0.4 per million persons.

 A quick comparison with case rates/death rates per million persons in other countries – 

CountryCase Rate per MillionDeath Rate per Million
France2542362
UK2374319
USA3129179

– proves that Hong Kong managed to control Covid-19 very effectively, despite being more densely populated than any of these countries.

One may argue that maybe Hong Kong did not test enough people. However, while France achieved a rate of testing 7103 people per million, UK achieved a rate of 11,245, and USA achieved a rate of 17,885, Hong Kong still led by testing 19,426 people per million!

Without a total lockdown, how did the Hong Kong government prevent the spread of Covid-19 and drastically reduce the Covid-19 death rate to zero? These are seven ways Hong Kong did it:

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Hong Kong has always practiced a high level of hygiene. As the proverb “once bitten, twice shy” goes, Hong Kong was devasted by the SARS epidemic in 2003 which left hundreds dead. Since then the level of cleanliness, personal hygiene and social responsibility has been remarkably high. Post SARS, any person affected by even a common cold, fever or cough, would be found wearing a mask outdoors, or even at home, so as to not infect surrounding people.

Quick Response

Hong Kong began taking precautions as soon as the outbreak in China was noticed in early January. Authorities issued quick warnings to all citizens, informing them of the situation developing next door and immediately shut down schools, prohibited large events and encouraged companies to have their employees to work from home as far as possible. All forms of transport between Hong Kong and China were cut off, and all those who entered Hong Kong from overseas were tested in order to prevent further import of the virus.

Large-scale Preventive Measures

Sterilizers were placed in every public transport vehicle, at the entrances of every building, and near elevator buttons and escalator handrails. Earlier, these spots would be sterilized every six hours; now the frequency was upped to every two hours. Most public places and apartment buildings got contact-free UV sterilizers installed for door mats, handrails, and common spaces.

Large-scale Testing

HK authorities carried out massive testing, including contact tracing of those who tested positive. Nobody was spared; in fact, people willingly came out and requested to be tested. This gave the government and health authorities a clear picture of the of the extent of the spread, its locations and hot spots, and its trends, which enabled them to draft and execute a master plan to control and eventually stop Covid-19 from spreading.

Wearing Masks

While other countries and foreigners initially ridiculed Hong Kongers’ habit of wearing a mark, Hong Kong residents simply chose to ignore it. The habit made a big difference; it prevented the spread of infection as everyone wore masks without question.

Reporting Cases and Teamwork

Every establishment, business, office, and overall public, notwithstanding loss to business, honestly reported any illness to the nearest doctor or hospital. This enabled quick action in the case infected by the virus. Buildings in which cases were found carried notices, so that others could be pre-warned and take appropriate precautions. Positive Covid-19 cases were mapped and registered on app, so everyone knew affected areas and thus could avoid them.

People who had come to Hong Kong from overseas were given wristbands for monitoring their movement and ensuring quarantine. Those who flouted quarantine rules were either fined or jailed. 

Strict Social Distancing

All possible tasks were moved online. Restaurants made alternate seating arrangements to keep distance as diners would have to remove masks while eating. In order to keep going, people improved their immunity by consuming healthy food, Vitamin C supplements, exercising and keeping a positive attitude.

Hong Kong’s success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic without a total lockdown was primarily due to a keen sense of self-discipline, social responsibility, and a positive attitude on part of every HK resident, coupled with action and encouragement from the government and other civic bodies. 

The high level of self-imposed, collective, social discipline and civic responsibility shouldered by HK residents was very evident in the fact that anyone visiting Hong Kong after Chinese New Year celebrations in late January 2020 would have found it difficult to spot even a single person not wearing a mask outdoors.

Today normalcy has been fully restored, yet several self-imposed restrictions, including wearing masks, cleaning hands, using sanitizers, and maintaining personal and public hygiene continue to prevail. This makes Hong Kong a very safe place to live and work in, and the city-state’s incredible achievement sets an example to the whole world to learn from. Full credit to the people and government of Hong Kong… very well done indeed!

Ranjit Khanolkar

Ranjit Khanolkar is a Mechanical and Marine Engineer, working as Technical Superintendent with Bernhard Schulte Ship Management in Hong Kong.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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