Some people suggest that the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus will last for one to two years, in the absence of an effective cure. The virus can subside in strength only when the number of infections reaches a certain level. On one hand, its virulence will taper off after multiple infections; and on the other hand, it will be difficult for the virus to find new hosts when a significant percentage of the infected population can produce antibodies. The worst situation would be an estimated 60 to 70 percent of the entire population getting the virus. These notions or estimates have yet to be verified. Nevertheless, it is predictable that the global pandemic will hardly come to an end this year.
As a result, Hong Kong needs to continue its disease prevention and control endeavors, both in curbing imported infections and
preventing a community outbreak.
Since Hong Kong is a very open city, it is difficult to keep non-local infections in check. Economic consideration is a constraining factor in disease prevention and control. It has been only a little more than a month since the SAR shut down most of its border checkpoints with the Chinese mainland, and Hong Kong’s tourism and associated industries have already sustained heavy losses. The city could undergo a deep economic recession after it restricted the entry of foreign nationals. Our quarantine capability is another constraining factor in curbing the spread of the virus. Currently, there are only three existing quarantine centers in Hong Kong, merely providing a total of 1,254 flats. As a result, it is difficult for the SAR government to bring home all Hong Kong residents stranded in Wuhan in an expeditious manner. Moreover, in order to ensure patients exhibiting serious symptoms can be admitted to the quarantine centers, quarantine orders for international arrivals have to be undertaken at their residential homes.
Hong Kong is also coping with the unique problem of a “black revolution”. As the nomination period for the seventh Legislative Council election is about to begin, the SAR government has to decide on how to review the eligibility of the nominees
Insufficient quarantine facilities also make it difficult to control the spread of the disease within the community. So far, Hong Kong has done a good job in identifying suspected cases and tracking down confirmed cases, and a major community outbreak is therefore averted. However, since it is impossible for Hong Kong to stop imported cases, and no solution has been proposed to resolve the inadequacy in quarantine facilities, there exists the risk of a major community outbreak.
Some suggest that Hong Kong should brace itself for a protracted battle that could last a year or two. Such a suggestion makes sense from the perspective of a virus containment strategy. However, the issue is Hong Kong’s economy cannot afford draconian containment measures for a long time. For the interests of the city in the long run, the SAR government has to carefully assess the situation so that a balance can be struck between epidemic control and economic development.
First of all, it is necessary for the SAR government to make everyone stay vigilant against possible infection from their living environment. In the next year or two, infections or suspected cases could emerge every now and then in our community. Nonetheless, our basic pattern of living should be maintained. The reopening of schools is another tough nut to crack. It seems that we cannot wait for 24 days for no confirmed infections before schools resume. Even if there are no new infections for 24 days, we cannot guarantee that no new cases will emerge. Prolonged suspension of schools and work will have an unbearable cost to society.
Hong Kong is also coping with the unique problem of a “black revolution”. As the nomination period for the seventh Legislative Council election is about to begin, the SAR government has to decide on how to review the eligibility of the nominees. The review process of the Sixth District Council Election last year was rather lenient. Chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was not considered crossing the red line of “one country, two systems” as well as the Basic Law. Rioters participating in the “black revolution” were not regarded as disloyal to the People’s Republic of China and the HKSAR. Consequently, a large number of ‘’pro-violence’’ candidates were elected as district councilors. Recently, several of these councilors refused to serve residents who have different political views. If the upcoming LegCo election opens its door to these pro-violence candidates, the current administration will be the first to taste the bitter fruit.
The “black revolution” may soon re-emerge for two reasons. Externally, although the world is beleaguered by the coronavirus pandemic, external forces hostile to China will not loosen their efforts to play the “Hong Kong card” to contain China’s rise. Internally, Hong Kong is about to be hit by an upsurge in business closures, unemployment and pay cuts. As the economic recession and people’s living conditions continue to worsen, it will help the anti-China and anti-communist political forces undermine the administration’s governance and policymaking.
The hostile political forces are using riots and protests interactively to force the SAR government to loosen its scrutiny of the candidates’ eligibility for the upcoming LegCo election. Should they succeed, they will continue to launch incessant attacks on the administration in their bid to secure a majority of seats in LegCo. Once they take control of the legislature, the current administration’s policymaking and governance will be brought to a standstill. All Hong Kong residents must think about this carefully: If such political changes do occur, how much damage will they do to the city’s efforts to contain the coronavirus and resurrect the economy?
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS