Hong Kong questions costs of COVID rules on mental health and livelihoods

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HONG KONG, April 14 (Reuters) – To fight COVID, Hong Kong has closed schools and businesses, nearly closed its borders for two years, banned more than two people from gathering and quarantined people. entire buildings.

Yet draconian restrictions have not been able to contain the coronavirus, and with more than 8,600 deaths of mostly elderly and unvaccinated people, many in the past two months alone, Hong Kong citizens are counting with the costs of some of the strictest social distancing rules in the world. on their mental health and livelihoods.

The financial center’s empty streets, shuttered restaurants and bars, and empty supermarket shelves bear witness to the disruption Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules have inflicted on its residents.

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Jacky Ip, 33, runs a Japanese sake bar in Kowloon, across the harbor from the central business district, which stayed open until 4 a.m. before the pandemic but has since been devastated by changing restrictions on opening hours.

“We’ve lost a lot of money to the point that we almost have to shut down our business. Right now it’s up to shareholders pooling the money to see how long we can survive,” Ip said. .

Many businesses across the city have been forced to close, including gyms, restaurants and bars, while others say they are living on borrowed time.

Ip complained that landlords failed to adjust rents in one of the world’s most expensive property markets to take account of the business slump.

“The most important cost is rent and we have to maintain the livelihood of our employees. It’s not fair. You are telling us to stop our activity, but you have not told the owner to stop working. charge us the rent.”

WORRIED FOR THE SON

Beauty salon owner Lin Chan, 33, regrets that her nearly three-year-old son had to wear a face mask shortly after birth and worries about his socialization.

“He hasn’t been able to go to class. And now he’s at kindergarten level, he relies on Zoom. The parks outside are closed and he has little opportunity to meet friends and relatives and to communicate. So his speech develops rather slowly and he is afraid of strangers,” she said.

Chan lives with her husband in a small apartment in the densely populated Kowloon neighborhood and she said government rules that have forced her salon to close several times have reduced her family’s income.

“The government constantly asks me to close it. And then I can open for a few months. Earlier, I had to close for four months. So the impact on our lives is very important. I hope the things can quickly go back to normal, that we can recover our regular income and that the child can socialize.”

SURROUNDED BY BODY

As the recent COVID-19 outbreak overwhelmed hospitals, medical staff worked around the clock to care for patients.

“We have to take care of 72 patients in one ward,” said nurse Lau Hoi-man, 37.

“Our colleagues are extremely busy. They haven’t had time to pee or drink water or even eat their meals.”

Lau said that with space in emergency rooms so limited and with the shocking number of deaths “you may have to occupy every waiting space to place the corpses as well as our living patients”.

“Most of the co-workers saw that you may have performed CPR surrounded by corpses. It’s very sad to see that.”

FAMILIES DIVIDED, PEOPLE LEAVE

Authorities are expected to start easing some of the restrictions from next week as the number of daily cases dips below 2,000, but the damage will be hard to reverse.

Hong Kong saw a net outflow of around 70,000 people in February and March, down from nearly 17,000 in December before the latest surge, as many residents grew frustrated with the strict rules.

For those already outside of Hong Kong, border restrictions have added to the mental toll.

Beary Pang, 40, said his father died in March and three of his sisters who live overseas were unable to return for the funeral.

“Those who are abroad can only attend the funeral by video conference. We feel quite helpless. We only had one father, but when the biggest event happened, they couldn’t to come back.”

“It’s quite difficult to accept.”

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Reporting by Jessie Pang and Aleksander Solum; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Christian Schmollinger

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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