Ms. J, from Hong Kong, reflects on how the ‘virus’ has changed her city home, sometimes for the better.

Never would I have thought that at the start of 2020, a “World War Z” feeling would spread across the world! Without blood, without running for your life, without Brad Pitt, but you know it is all around you! The anxiety, the panic, the restrictions, constant reminders of self-protection and the dramatic death rate around the world. Getting on the train you could suddenly be in life threatening danger! The fear of death was never so close!

People in HK are considered lucky. We were one of the first infected cities, in early 2020, but never suffered a lockdown. Local government established various measures to fight against the virus but the people in HK are, still today, free to go around.

Everyone is conscious of wearing mask and sanitising hands whenever they can. There was a wave of panic buying of masks, sanitiser, toilet rolls, tissue paper, any type of noodles and rice, bread, canned food. Empty shelves in supermarkets and the lack of daily masks was the talk of town for many weeks. But then it stablised pretty quickly.

With our SARS experience in 2003, HK people knew when to wear a mask in public. It is perceived to be a responsible and life-saving act for yourself and for others. It is impressive that every Hong Konger is so aligned with this belief that you will not see anyone without a mask in public, even with the currently hot weather and 35 degree temperatures. 

But we do question, will this become our way of life?!

Nevertheless, westerners living in HK did not wear masks in the early stages of the pandemic. We cannot be sure whether they thought we were over-reacting or that the virus only targeted Asians. At that point, there were minimal cases in the western world. But since the outbreak started in Europe and North America, the whole cycle of panic buying, empty shelves in shops and the mask wearing debate has happened in these places too, and so the westerners started to understand why we do what we do, and began wearing masks.

Cultural differences disappeared and we all knew that we were in this together.

The combined effort of government measures and people’s behavior seems to have paid off. The number of confirmed cases and deaths in HK has remained low.

Meanwhile, with the pandemic induced closure of factory operations in China, the ever-polluted air quality in HK has improved. Even the ocean is clearer. People are more alert about health and diet, bonding more with their loved ones, there is more home cooking fun, more efforts to see nature – everyone in HK seems to be at ease with the pandemic as long as we all behave! Amazing to see such a pleasant outcome from such a difficult situation. Would this ever have happened if there were no pandemic?

I am from HK, living in HK with my British husband and we run a little hat shop selling vintage men’s hats.

Dr. Howl – A GREAT hat shop it is too!