Coronavirus in Hong Kong - An inside view from a Norfolk teacher
Hong Kong’s approach to the coronavirus outbreak initially appeared to be keeping the spread under control, as a Norfolk teacher can attest.
Daniel Pagan, from East Ruston near Stalham, has been living in the Asian city since August 2018.
Mr Pagan, 49, said the authorities had approached the outbreak in a “very transparent” way, which, until recently, had looked like it was working.
Mr Pagan said: “It is possible to visit government websites that show the locations of infections. You can even identify where an infected individual lived, how old they are, which hospital they are at, etcetera.
“I think this kind of meticulous detection and logging of information had really helped stem the spread here, keeping the numbers low.
“Only three weeks ago the number of infections was just around a 100, in a city of over seven million, that’s manageable.
“How things can change though - within three weeks the number of infections has exploded and now the number is almost 1,000 and the system is beginning to show signs of being stretched to its limit.”
Mr Pagan previously taught design and technology at schools including City of Norwich School and Sidestrand complex needs school.
He described his first year in Hong Kong as a “golden year”.
Mr Pagan said: “I was free to explore, hiking, cycling, chilling on golden beaches, going out on a junk boat parties and competing in a dragon boat races.”
He said life became somewhat more complicated at the start of his second year, when independence demonstrations regularly filled city streets, and schools had to be closed for two weeks.
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Mr Pagan said: “My local shopping mall, where amongst other things I like to go for a hazelnut latte, was closed for three months due vandalism, including the arson of a huge artificial Christmas tree.”
Mr Pagan said a sense of normality returned after Christmas 2019, but when he returned from a trip home to Norfolk during the Chinese New Year at the end of January, the situation was changing fast.
He said: “We were warned of a virus and told there may be problems ahead and that schools may be forced to close. E-learning began in haste - nine weeks in so far and it looks like it might run till the end of the academic year.”
Mr Pagan said he continued to teach to his normal timetable online - students all have iPads and they use apps like Google Classroom and Zoom for lessons.
He said: “E-learning is never going to be as good as being in school, but the whole process is quite successful even if it feels somewhat unreal, going on as normal as the rest of the world and home has such a torrid time.
“It is possible to go out, there haven’t been any restrictions as yet, but some of my students tell me they haven’t been outside for the last nine weeks.”
He said restrictions were slowly being imposed.
Mr Pagan said: “Cinemas are closed, football and baseball courts taped off, civil servants working from home, schools closed indefinitely, cafes and restaurants given strict rules on table placement and groups no bigger than four not allowed.
“The authorities and media here identify returning Hong Kongers as the main new source.
“Some medical experts have estimated there could be up to 7,000 infected returnees in the community now, there has also been a rise in locally transmitted infections associated with the bars and clubs in the clubbing area of Lan Kwai Fong.
“Nowhere near as tough as in the UK, but if the numbers keep on rising then perhaps it will get tougher still.”
Mr Pagan had hoped to return to the UK for Easter, but with flight cancellations that wasn’t possible.
He said: “I know my Norfolk colleagues and I over here worry and think about you all at home, especially those with family in the front line. Take care, look after one another and don’t let your guard down.”
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