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How Hong Kong defeated the corona virus and prevented it from being blocked

When Apple closed its retail stores around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of stores were exempt, including the six locations in Hong Kong.

In fact, much of Hong Kong has felt relatively normal this year compared to its counterparts who have implemented strict blocking measures.

Since the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on January 22, Hong Kong has undergone gradual closure of government offices, schools, gyms and bars. However, other services were relatively untouched, including dining in restaurants, shops, malls, and trains.

Today office workers are back in business and the city has reopened its gyms and even night clubs.

In any case, the situation in Hong Kong could have been bad. It is one of the densest cities in the world. Public transport is often full. There are even direct flights and trains from Wuhan, the Chinese city where Covid-19 first appeared at the end of last year. In January alone, more than 2.5 million people arrived from mainland China.

With a population of 7.5 million people, Hong Kong has registered around 1,200 cases. In comparison, there were more than 43,000 cases in Singapore when there was an outbreak of housing for migrant workers. As a result, the city-state issued blocking measures for more than two months.

In contrast, Hong Kong had no new cases in consecutive weeks.

Hong Kong managed to avoid blocking, while Covid-19 was largely eliminated.

Here are five reasons why Hong Kong managed to avoid a ban while defeating Covid-19:

1. Experience

Many people in Hong Kong remember the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

"We had never seen anything like it back then," Leah Choi told CNBC, recalling her experience growing up in Hong Kong. "But based on our experience during SARS, people in Hong Kong are much more alert."

Choi remembered that teachers had measured their temperature and had to wear face masks all the time.

"Today, Hong Kong people are much more diligent about the corona virus outbreak. We know what to do because we have already learned what could happen if we didn't take all of these security measures against the virus," said you .

The first day of return to school in Hong Kong since the SARS outbreak on May 12, 2003.

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The outbreak, which was first identified in 2002, eventually infected nearly 1,800 people in Hong Kong. After the health crisis, the Hong Kong government created the Health Protection Center, which specializes in disease prevention and control.

"When they first heard of cases in China, people took it seriously," Keiji Fukuda, professor and director at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health told CNBC.

"The public really responded, so you could really see that most people in the city were wearing masks," he said, referring to the days after the city's first confirmed fall.

2. Crucial border control and strict quarantine measures

Hong Kong closed nine of its twelve border checkpoints at the end of January, leaving the remaining three open to facilitate the flow of goods. As the situation developed, the city banned all non-residents from March 25th. In early April, only about 100 visitors arrived daily, and those who arrived were subjected to a strict 14-day quarantine.

Marco Bellanda, a six-year-old resident of Hong Kong, flew back from his hometown in Italy to the city on May 10, where he was immediately tested on Covid-19. Although his test was negative, he still had to be quarantined for 14 days. During this time, the government tracked his location through an app and an electronic wristband that he had to wear.

"I have to sleep. I have to shower. I have to cook. I have to do everything with it," he told CNBC via video call while he was in quarantine at his home. When he returned to his apartment after his first test, he was instructed to walk around his house so that the government could ensure that his movement was strictly within the coordinates of his house for the next two weeks.

Marco Bellanda, a six-year-old resident of Hong Kong, returned to the city and had to be quarantined for 14 days with a wristband for location.

CNBC

"I can't go down or outside or I think it will ring," he said. "Actually, I don't want to try because the fine would be HK $ 25,000 ($ 3,225) and six months in prison."

In addition to the bracelet, Marco also received sporadic calls from government officials on WhatsApp to make sure he was home and asked if he had any symptoms or felt uncomfortable.

As the infection rate dropped, the city gradually loosened some of its border controls in late April.

3. Contact tracking

Contact tracking is a method of finding people who may have been exposed to Covid-19. In many cases, these people are instructed to isolate themselves for 14 days to determine possible symptoms. Practice has been used extensively in many Asian countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Upon returning to Hong Kong, government officials asked Bellanda to write down the number plate of the taxi that was taking him home. This allowed the authorities to contact the taxi driver if Bellanda later tested positive for Covid-19.

The Hong Kong government also updates an interactive online map with detailed information on all confirmed cases in the city, including the date and time of the move.

4. Central government

Hong Kong's relatively small population has made it easier for the government to monitor and control the movement of its population, unlike places with a larger population.

For example, the United States has received different responses to the pandemic at the federal, state, county, and city levels, making a coordinated approach much more difficult.

5. Cultural habits

Professor Fukuda, who previously worked at the World Health Organization, has lived in both the United States and Asia. He believes that cultural perspectives have played a major role in containing the outbreak.

"If you can get people and government to work together, it's an amazingly strong combination," he said. "It is a very high level of awareness not to want to influence other people or to put them at risk. If the public says that we are part of the reason why things are going well, it is absolutely true."

The politicization highlighted by Fukuda has hampered the US and its ability to contain the outbreak. The United States has reported more than 2.6 million confirmed cases.

"In Asia there is a very high level of concern about other people, about mutual care," he said. "In the States, it really turned out that there are big cultural differences in the country. Whether you are in rural areas or in cities, whether you are in red or blue states."

"While the outbreak in Hong Kong brought people closer together," he said.

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