PEOPLE IN CHINA, which is still a developing country, are vaccinating the populace at twice the speed of slick, super-modern Singapore, and five times faster than Asia’s financial capital, Hong Kong.
What’s going on?
And more to the point, where will this take us in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is one of several places pursuing a Zero Covid strategy, which sounds logical and worthwhile. But reflection suggests that ain’t necessarily so.
Taiwan is Exhibit A for the argument that it can be a doomed strategy. Taiwan got down to zero cases but has suddenly jumped to 300 cases a day.
Here’s the thing: The Zero Covid strategy is risky when you combine it with a low vaccination rate, as Hong Kong has.
China’s can solve society’s problems, because government, media, and public tend to act together.
But in spiky, freewheeling Hong Kong, there are challenges. The raucous, government-baiting media has blackened the reputation of the civil service and loves to amplify stories of possible side effects or deaths, making vaccination come across as far more of a risk than it really is.
This turns people into anti-vaxxers or ones who show “vaccine hesitancy”. Why take a risk? Especially since the rarity of locally-transmitted cases in has lulled many people into a false sense of security (which is exactly what happened in Taiwan).
In mainland China, communities are getting rid of their masks and starting to live normally again, so it looks like a Zero Covid strategy can work. But it works only in tandem with a high vaccination rate, where a community supports its health service.
In polarized Hong Kong, that’s not happening, so we have a situation where the virus is not spreading, but neither is the vaccine.
There’s a lot at stake. Because of the low vaccination rate, there will likely be new waves of covid in Hong Kong, and so borders with mainland China will remain closed, and quarantine will stay in place.
“Meanwhile, London and New York are vaccine success stories. Once they reach the fabled position of herd immunity, they will surely want nothing to do with travel to Hong Kong,” said an investment banker in Exchange Square who asked for his name not to be printed.
“If Hong Kong does not get its act together now on vaccines, it could be game over as a financial capital,”
What needs to happen?
The government needs to make a concerted effort to get people vaccinated right now. Like what? Tax incentives or special privileges or we just pay people to get the jab.
Also, the media needs to recognize that it needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Like it or not, Hong Kong has to learn from its giant cousin to the north.