Hong Kong (precautions)Back to Forum
Sitting in the lounge here in BKK, I am overhearing several phone conversations with guests confirming their companies have cancelled all meetings and travel to mainland China, for up to 3 months. I have also met a couple of Dr’s working on ‘infection control’ and currently based in BKK. Common parts of all conversations, China are being open, in parts, but the full picture is yet to come out.
Yes I am a little concerned, especially as I have 24 hours in HKG this weekend before I fly home. Advice I have been given:
** Use taxis, avoid public transport
** Try to stay within the airport area instead of going downtown
** Use hand sanitizers/gel and wash hands
** I hear more people suggesting the masks are a waste of time, although in BKK I do wear one when running, because the AQI is so high
** drinking plenty of fresh orange juice
** the obvious one, staying well away from fresh food markets
Any other advice would be appreciated.
Finally I do feel for HKG, first the riots and now the health issues from China. I hope HKG’s fortunes return, it is sad to experience the fantastic airport running so empty and hotel occupancy rates falling due to lack of visitors.
Many thanks29 Jan 2020
Yes, BKK is the home to WHO in Asia, so plenty of comings and goings of epidemiologists there.
▪ masks: only good for solid particulate matter to 25 microns (standard air pollution); liquid particulate matter (from a sneeze, for instance) combines with the moisture being exhaled into the mask by the wearer, thus can be inhaled when warmed by the breath. Most viruses are smaller than 22 microns.
▪ isolation from others is the nearest to personal infection control in a public place as you can get, hence taxi vs. open carriages. You probably travel in one of the highest density places on Earth every day – an elevator! One cough in an elevator and it’s all over. (Take the stairs.)
▪ hand sanitisers only work on bacteria, not viruses. Soap and running water breaks down the skin’s natural oil, removing surface material; using an absorbant disposable towel contains any residue within the bin. Using air hand dryers only creates conditions for droplet infection by airborne contaminants. Soap, water, hand towel.
▪ stay away from wet food markets: again, slopping around in or near water creates vectors for droplet infection. Anywhere that uses hoses down animal processing areas should be avoided.
▪ Orange juice? Where did that one come from? There was an old wives tale about Vitamin C and the effect on the common cold – another virus – that was debunked decades ago…
▪ I have always allowed myself three days of ‘room time’ after travelling in the Big Silver Test Tube in the Sky, as a precaution. I also break up any long-haul journeys when I can. A month ago I couldn’t and flew SYD-BNE-SIN-CMB in one day. Sick as a dog for three days after! Fly F, J, C – fewer people.29 Jan 2020
And while I’m on the topic (and travelling in India:
▪ if travelling in a country where hawking and spitting or emptying nasal passages openly and publically are prevalent, use slip on shoes in the streets, sliding them on and off without touching them.
▪ don’t use the absorbant ‘comfort socks’ provided by airlines in flight (euww!). Instead buy a pair of light cheap nylon-plush plastic-soled slippers that can be stowed in carry-on luggage, and packed sole-to-sole in a light impermiable freezer bag.29 Jan 2020
If you’ve not booked your hotel yet, book the Auberge in Discovery Bay.
That way you’re avoiding the throngs in Kowloon & Central.
You can also get a taxi to the Auberge, as it’s the only place in DB that ais allowed taxi access
Otherwise there’s the DB coach, that is rarely busy !
Take care29 Jan 2020
Martyn, we lived in Hong Kong right through the SARS days and remember them well. Now I’m thinking more about peoples’ reactions than about precautions you should take (the latter can be found on numerous official websites as you know). My ideas,  you said “I hear more people suggesting the masks are a waste of time” and while that may be true, most people or everyone will always be wearing them outside and will expect the same of you, so I’d take a good supply with me. So I would always wear one outside, not to protect myself, but to meet peoples’ expectations/ sensitivities.  During SARS anyone with a temperature at the airport was pulled aside for further examination: it probably took some time. A friend of mine was forced to go to a government hospital where he spent much of the day being tested.  People were highly worried. At meetings everyone wore a mask and firmly insisted I go and wash my hands before sitting down in the meeting.  Hong Kong was a washout for weeks because a lot of people, locals and expats alike, especially those with children, stayed at home for a long time – not going out AT ALL.  Restaurants were empty or closed at times.  Personally I would not shake anyone’s hand, again, because they won’t like it.  Try to avoid coughing or sneezing near anyone.
I feel for the people of Hong Kong at this time.29 Jan 2020
Hong Kong is exactly a sought after destination at the moment BUT at present any risk is minute.
There are 10 reported cases some reported up to 10 days ago. No one has died and 4 of the cases are in the recovery mode already.
I am not for one moment seeking to downplay the seriousness of this rather to quantify the present risk profile.
In my opinion necessary business travel to HK is safe – at present but of course this is subject to change.
Most of the precautions outlined in the above posts are sensible particularly the type of mask that is effective. There are no more masks readily available in HK and this morning on my way to the office a passed a queue of some 120 people outside a chemist with stock – bring your own masks.
I lived here during SARS and from all reports this virus is less virulent and from several normally reliable reports over 85% of the deaths in China were of folk over 70 with underlying serious medical issues (many would have been suffering from lung cancer given the still heavy smoking and pollution in many parts of the country).
It is not of course recommended coming to HK for a holiday at the moment but do come for business – it is essentially safe and we need you.30 Jan 2020
Dear Martyn, the advice above is sensible, particularly the part about other people’s expectations of you.
Sit at the back of the aircraft cabin with a bulkhead behind you. Over 80% of the people infected with SARS while on aircraft were sitting within two rows in front of an infected person – no surprises, coughs and sneezes and the concomitant droplets tend to go forward. If the aircraft has a direct able air nozzle, use it to create a “cone” of filtered air around you. Wear glasses, it appears that droplet infection MAY be possible through the eyes (although I have seen this disputed, if you have some glasses it might make sense to wear them).
Otherwise, although it has been established that person-to-person transmission is possible, it does seem to be at close quarters (generally family members infecting one another) so if you avoid crowds as much as possible that will help.
I, like many of my colleagues, am working from home. When I have to go into the office (which I have had to do, briefly, just about every day so far) I wear a mask and disposable gloves, not least because I have an immune system disorder so I am potentially more vulnerable. But a lot of people seem to think that’s overkill!
Hong Kong will survive this, probably more despite the government than because of anything they have done (pretty much everything they have done to date has been too little, too late, and/or stupid (Wear masks! Don’t wear masks! Wear masks if you have to! Don’t close borders! Close some borders but not others! Don’t close all borders because that would be “discriminatory” (yes, really)!). All of which, of course, goes to show you that the other risk you face is this.
Good luck!5 Feb 2020
Looking forward to reading your report, heading back next month and trying to work out how to wear a mask and enjoy a tipple or four in LKF or Wan Chai. : )6 Feb 2020
I’ve asked those there about whether I will be stared at for not wearing a mask, and the answer seems to be…. no … at least in Central and Kowloon.
Since then I have got a mask, from a decorator friend, so I’ll have that in my pocket if people start to stare.
A lot of restaurants seem to be closed (in hotels) which is understandable if some of the hotels are running at 10-20% occupancy.
I suppose my main concern is if the UK advice changes while I’m out there and then I fly back to the UK and am put in quarantine, either self-imposed (as in, forced to be) or I’m sent to The Wirrall!
But work is work…
Tom6 Feb 2020
Readers who have booked flights to HKG in the coming weeks and months must check schedules as airlines will doubtless be altering them.
I believe Cathay Pacific will be axing some long-haul flights in the near future although nothing official has been confirmed.
Today comes news that V Australia will not be flying from Sydney to Hong Kong and return after March 2.
I mention this because Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia jointly sell discounted business and economy fares on this route from London via Hong Kong to Sydney.
It means that travellers intending to fly London-Sydney or v.v. with these carriers must check to see what arrangements are being made for a re-route.6 Feb 2020
Since then I have got a mask, from a decorator friend, so I’ll have that in my pocket if people start to stare.
You will be stared at if you DON’T wear a mask. I would also suggest you take more than 1 mask in case the straps break on the one you’ve got. I saw long lines last week which started at 3 am (according to the hotel which was next door) and snaked for a very long way. There are some pharmacies selling masks at inflated prices and if you have friends who are short of masks – I would buy a couple, rather than taking a bottle of wine.
What I have found extremely distasteful is my local pharmacist in North London who are selling masks at £70 per box or £10 each – and this is a licensed UK pharmacist selling a product at over 10x cost.
How effective these masks are – well that’s another story.6 Feb 2020
I’m currently based in HK (Work in Central and live in Wan Chai)
If you are in public even briefly without a mask, you will be stared at. While the effectiveness of masks are questioned in protecting the user, its part of the social contract that you will wear one. It expected and it makes people feel more comfortable. If you sneeze it does stop the spread of a common cold/flu which similar symptoms as the Coronavirus and as you can imagine it causes concern.
I would highly recommend that you bring a supply of masks. Your colleagues and business partners will appreciate them. If you are travelling with checked luggage, a supply of alcohol gel and wipes will go down better than any corporate gift. The shelves are bare here in HK and with much of these items coming from the PRC, we are not sure when they will be replenished and if they are will people trust PRC made masks?
Safe travels.7 Feb 2020