We’ll start with the crazy news first, and some background. Hong Kongers have continued to face a shortage of masks and some necessities – like toilet paper.
In supermarkets and grocery stores, the supply of rice and toilet rolls has remained tight over the past two weeks. Stock can sell out within an hour of arriving from a warehouse.
A picture of a huge stack of toilet paper stored by one family at their home had gone viral on the Internet. Wholesalers said people should not panic as there was plenty of toilet paper in the city. And the Consumer Council recommended that people should not to store too many rolls at home – as fungus could grow if they were stored in a moist environment.
But, with many millions of people locked down in China and a global pandemic declared, these are strange days. And these warnings appeared to fall on deaf ears.
At 6am on Monday, toilet paper even became a target for robbers in Hong Kong.
Three men in their 20s threatened a truck driver with knives and were able to get away with 50 packets – or 600 rolls – of toilet paper outside a Wellcome supermarket in Mong Kok.
They loaded the goods, worth about HK$1,700 (US$219), on to a cart and ran away.
Within hours, the police had arrested two suspects in a nearby guesthouse and recovered all the stolen goods. One suspect is still at large.
Toilet paper is not the only commodity that has suddenly become highly valued. People have also been going to great lengths to acquire face-masks.
At Tuen Mun Magistrate’s Court, also on Monday, a 35-year-old Indonesian domestic worker named Masriki pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud. She had pretended to be ITA and Sri-Yatin, who ordered 3,500 and 2,000 masks, respectively, and took away the goods in Anny Express in Causeway Bay last Friday.
The maid said she sold 2,000 masks to someone for HK$7,140, or HK$3.57 each – and they were later recovered. However, the remaining 3,500 masks, that were sold to an Indonesian woman have yet to be found.
Magistrate Kelly Shui slammed Masriki for being “out of her mind,” and warned that she had to pay HK$12,000 in compensation to the express or she would face up to four weeks in prison.
Three new cases
Meanwhile, the city also saw a rebound in the number of Wuhan virus infections. Three new confirmed cases were reported, up from only one case over the weekend. Of the latest four, three were correlated.
On Sunday, a 54-year-old local man, who worked as an engineer in P&T Group – an international architectural engineering firm, became the 57th coronavirus patient in Hong Kong. He has been living at Ming Kung Mansion in Taikoo Shing and had a record of good health.
According to the Centre for Health Protection, the man developed a fever on February 7 and a cough on February 15. He consulted William Ko Chi-fai, a private doctor, on February 7 and 10, then sought medical attention at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital on February 10.
He was not admitted to hospital, as he had no recent travel history while his lungs did not show infection symptoms. He consulted the same private doctor on February 13 and 15, then went to the same hospital again on February 15. He was then admitted for isolation and management.
Before being identified as an infected person, the man attended an activity at the Christian Gospel Disciples Church in Shau Kei Wan – along with dozens of others – on February 9, sources said.
Both Ko’s clinic in Taikoo Shing and P&T Group’s office in North Point have been closed for sterilization.
On Monday, a 45-year-old male colleague of the man and his 46-year-old wife were also identified as the victims No.59 and 60 in Hong Kong.
His wife, who worked from home, developed symptoms on February 8 but attended the same church activity on February 9.
The male colleague, who resides in Tsz Oi Court, Tsz Oi Court Stage III in Tsz Wan Shan, felt sick on February 12 and consulted a doctor the following day. He visited Vietnam between January 30 and February 1 but the Centre for Health Protection believed he was infected in Hong Kong.
The two colleagues worked on different floors in the same building but met frequently. They attended a meeting with four staff of the Hospital Authority in its headquarters in Ma Tau Wai on February 6. The younger colleague attended another meeting with Hospital Authority management on February 7.
Between February 3 and 7, thousands of members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance held a five-day strike to call on the government to completely shut down Hong Kong’s border with the mainland to prevent the Wuhan disease from spreading in the city.
The government rejected the call but required all incoming travellers from the mainland to be self-quarantined for 14-day from February 8.
During the week, hundreds of strikers gathered at the Hospital Authority headquarters and called for a dialogue with the senior government officials.
Medical experts expressed concern over why the 54-year-old man was not given a test for Covid-19 on February 10 – and allowed to stay in the community for five more days.
Kwok Ka-ki, a Civic Party lawmaker and a doctor, said the Hospital Authority should amend its guidelines to allow medical staff in hospitals to run tests on all high-risk patients.
Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, a specialist in infectious disease, said private doctors had difficulty identifying patients with the disease. Tsang said the Hospital Authority should turn some public hospitals specialist outpatient clinics into designated clinics to handle patients with fever and respiratory tract infection.
Meanwhile, Teodoro Locsin Jr, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said in a tweet on Saturday that it’s “time to allow our domestic workers to return to their employers in Hong Kong.”
He recommended the lifting of the ban on overseas Filipino workers – mainly domestic workers – to go back to Hong Kong, saying there was no confirmed case of Wuhan disease in the city on Saturday. He promised to reconsider lifting the ban in “two weeks.”
On February 2, the Philippine government announced a ban on its people going to China, Hong Kong and Macau. Since then, more than 1,000 Filipino domestic workers had reportedly been waiting to depart from Manila airport.
On February 3, Locsin asked President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the temporary ban. He said the President assured him that “he will do something” about the temporary ban.
Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said it would be good news if the Philippines could lift the travel ban and allow Filipino domestic workers to return to Hong Kong.
Yung said a lot of Hong Kong employers had to take leave to serve their parents as their Filipino domestic workers were not in the city.