About the Author

Sum Lok-kei

Sum Lok-kei is a Hong Kong desk reporter with the SCMP. He has a undergraduate in public health and a master's degree in journalism.

Audio transcript

I think the gut reaction of many Hong Kong was that “oh no, it is SARS again”, probably because the memory from when the disease plagued Hong Kong 17 years ago is quite vivid and painful for many of us. But the side effect of that is that people reacted quickly to see the virus from Wuhan by saying you should wear a mask in public whilst government officials were seen on TV not wearing a mask. Other knowledge such as cleaning a home with bleach solution, maintaining good hand hygiene are also from 17 years ago and people are putting this knowledge to good use. Another point that I observed is that people are generally more critical of the Hong Kong government over its handling of the current epidemic than they were in 2003, as many have slammed the government for dragging its feet in reducing traffic to and from places already hit by the virus. Others complained that the government has failed to maintain a steady supply of surgical masks to the city. There is also a sense of panic amongst people in Hong Kong right now because they fear they’re not going to get enough protective gear for themselves and their families. Before and after the Lunar New Year holidays, people were queuing outside the pharmacies in the hope of getting masks and hand sanitizers but the stock has simply run out and this is also a fact that by production and logistics being suspended on the mainland during the holidays and that the demand for these products has become global as the virus has reached other countries. As to how Hong Kong journalists are covering the epidemic? I will say it’s quite challenging because it involves a lot of disciplines from medicine to politics to retailing to business and even labor rights so I would say that we’re just trying to keep on top of it and record as many details over the cases arriving at Hong Kong as much as possible because it may be a good reference point for future generations for how infectious diseases should be managed in Hong Kong.

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