søndag 17. mai 2020

How Hong Kong Did It

It was January when I first heard about the mysterious viral pneumonia circulating in Wuhan, China. I had some major worries—was this SARS redux, or something else?—but also a small, selfish lament. I was eager to go back to Hong Kong, where I had been conducting research on its protest movement. A new epidemic there would likely mean that visiting the city anytime soon would be unsafe. I worried about my many friends there. I told them that I hoped to see them as soon as the outbreak was over.

It’s been five months, and I doubt Hong Kong will let someone like me in anytime soon. The city of more than 7 million people had no local cases for weeks until today; meanwhile, I live in the country with the worst outbreak in the world, the United States, with more than 80,000 known deaths from COVID-19 and without encouraging developments on the necessary measures to contain it. 

Hong Kong, by contrast, has had only four known deaths total from the coronavirus over the past many months. It recently stopped calculating the dreaded R(t)—the real-time transmission rate of the coronavirus—because, of course, you cannot calculate transmission rates without new cases. Hong Kong never even had a full lockdown (although it closed schools, which it plans to reopen soon). Meanwhile, I’m entering my sixth week under a stay-at-home order, with no robust exit infrastructure in place.