Hong Kong activists are considering reorganizing the city’s annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident, as it is likely that the government will extend pandemic containment measures by 14 days from Thursday. This could mean smaller events across the city to reduce crowd numbers.
The government will probably extend the ban on gatherings of more than eight people until June 4, Hong Kong media reported, citing unnamed government sources. The government believes conditions have not improved enough to allow for the relaxation of the social distancing rules, in light of three recent local coronavirus infections caused by an unknown source, said the officials.
The sources also said the government may continue to keep high-risk premises, including bathhouses, party rooms, nightclubs and karaoke establishments, under lockdown for two more weeks. However, it may loosen the social distancing rules for religious events. The government will announce the details on Tuesday.
Three local infections – a 63-year-old man, his 66-year-old wife and their five-year-old granddaughter – were identified on May 13 and 14. Several thousand saliva sample containers were delivered to residents in block 5, Lei Muk Shue Estate in East Tsuen Wan so they can be tested for Covid-19. As of Monday, more than a thousand samples tested negative.
Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the government is trying to use the social distancing rules to stop this year’s June 4 vigil, which will be the 31st event since 1989. He said it’s unreasonable to ban political rallies while school classes and religious activities are permitted to resume in late May.
Lee said the Alliance will continue to hold the vigil at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and also organize sub-events in different districts across the city. The Alliance will meet to discuss the matter on Tuesday.
Back to school
Secondary three to five students will be back in their classrooms from May 27 while primary four, secondary one and two students will return to class on June 8, the government said on May 5. Other primary school children and those in kindergarten three will go back on June 15.
Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said half-day sessions for students would be the starting point. The Education Bureau will not give students the option of studying online.
In many other cities, students can choose to attend classes via the Internet after their schools reopen in late May or early June. For example, first, second and third graders at elementary schools and students in public kindergartens in Shanghai will return to school from June 2 as the epidemic wanes, but they can choose to continue studying online if necessary.
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, told Apple Daily that Hong Kong can end enforced social distancing if there is no large-scale community virus outbreak in the city. He said Hong Kong can resume most of its social and economic activities as its epidemic situation has stabilized.
The government can relax some restrictions but it should increase the number Covid-19 tests to detect any invisible transmission of the virus in the community, said Yuen Kwok-yung, the chair of Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Microbiology. Ideally, least 7,500 samples per day should be tested in order to determine the number of asymptomatic people there are in the city, Yuen added.
The Hospital Authority said last week it was testing up to 2,000 samples per day.
Police abuse rules
Police officers have used the social distancing rules to disperse anti-government protesters singing songs in shopping malls and on the streets in recent weeks. Many protesters and shoppers have been fined HK$2,000 (US$258) each.
According to video footage shot by Free HK Media, police intercepted four individuals in a car park in Tseung Kwan O on April 22 and issued them penalty bills. On that evening, people gathered on the streets to remember Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old girl whose naked body was found in the sea seven months ago. Chan had participated in anti-extradition protests last summer.