Coronavirus: applause rings out in HK for health workers on Covid-19 front line

06-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hongkongers clapped their hands and beamed electronic messages of support from the city’s skyscrapers on Friday in tribute to health workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Two groups had made separate calls to residents to applaud frontline medical staff from their homes or wherever they were at 8pm, which were answered across the city with cheers, whoops and clapping.

One health worker responded to the outpouring saying: “We’re no heroes. We’re just doing what we should do.”

Another, who was uplifted by the show of support, encouraged Hongkongers affected by the crisis to applaud themselves and to keep taking precautions to halt the deadly disease’s spread.

Hong Kong has confirmed 845 coronavirus infections, including four deaths, as the crisis heaps pressure on the health care system.

A volunteer team at property giant Swire Properties and a non-profit organisation called Hong Kong Community Foundation said they were inspired to organise the round of applause by “Clap for Carers”, a similar initiative that had gone viral across European countries since late March.

The foundation was set up by Daryl Ng Win-kong, deputy chair of property giant Sino Group and a member of Beijing’s top political advisory body.

A foundation spokesman said their own version of the campaign, “Clap for HK”, was about encouraging people to give thanks to workers such as medical practitioners, carers, emergency service providers and cleaners.

He said it was “a spontaneous initiative to show appreciation to all the Covid heroes, who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe”.

A Swire Properties spokeswoman said volunteers would build on Friday’s applause by creating a montage of images and videos expressing their support for medical workers, before sending them to a hospital as “a small gift”.

Hong Kong Community Anti-Coronavirus Link, a pro-establishment group set up in February, said it had invited the owners of 14 commercial premises in Hong Kong’s business districts to display words of encouragement for two nights from Friday on the exterior of buildings, including the International Commerce Centre, the city’s tallest building.

The slogans included “Salute to the medical workers”, “Resist the pandemic in solidarity, cherish Hong Kong, our home”, and “Conquer the pandemic, protect Hong Kong”.

Link convenor Bunny Chan Chung-bun, a Hong Kong deputy to the national legislature, hoped the move could boost the morale of medical workers under enormous stress during the crisis.

“While medical workers stand firm on the front line, it’s most important … to show that Hongkongers are in solidarity and supporting each other to resist the pandemic,” Chan said. “We want to let medical workers know that they’re not alone.”

Earlier this year, hundreds of medical workers went on strike in protest against the government’s refusal to close all borders with mainland China to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which at the time was mainly prevalent in Hubei province.

Chan said medical workers who previously disagreed with the government’s anti-contagion tactics were also “pursuing the greater good of Hongkongers”.

“It’s most important that everyone, regardless of their political beliefs, fight this pandemic together,” he added.

Prominent figures in the city have shown support for the initiatives, including businessperson Allan Zeman.

“I hope that if everyone claps loudly, the virus might get scared from the noise and quickly leave town,” said the Lan Kwai Fong Group chair.

Bernard Chan, convenor of the government’s advisory body the Executive Council, took a video of himself clapping for 90 seconds. He said: “I support any initiative from the community to cheer up our frontline health workers and all the first responders.”

Former lawmaker and pro-democracy figure Emily Lau Wai-hing also took part.

“I want to show my support and appreciation for the hard work of the medical and health staff. I understand the pressure they are working under and want them to know the Hong Kong people really appreciate their tireless and selfless efforts,” she said.

District councillor Paul Zimmerman said residents should use the round of applause to remind themselves of the need to fulfil their civic duty by protecting themselves.

“While we still perceive our individual risks to be low, the societal risks are high as the capacity of our health care systems are tested,” he said.

“Let’s remind ourselves as we clap and make noise for them, that we need to mask up and stop shedding our saliva onto common surfaces, or directly within our families, workplaces and friends.”

Dr Arisina Ma Chung-yee, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, said she welcomed the support.

“Besides encouraging our colleagues, I hope Hongkongers can also cheer for themselves, and clap for those who may be in a bad mood, who are isolated or whose families have fallen ill,” she said, adding that residents should reduce close contact with others and always wear a mask when going out.

But Winnie Yu Wai-ming, chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, said some of her colleagues were critical of the clapping initiatives, believing they were at least partly backed by pro-government figures.

“If those pro-establishment people are really supporting our medical workers, they should have come out long ago,” she said.

“We welcome genuine support from Hongkongers, but not those coming after the government had failed with their antivirus policies.”

Yu, who led the strike in public hospitals two months ago, said the applause could wait until the end of the epidemic.

“We’re no heroes. We’re just doing what we should do,” she added.


Category: Hong Kong

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