HK's tough anti-Covid-19 rules push Singaporeans living there to look for an exit

HONG KONG – The Covid-19 pandemic and the way city officials have handled the situation have taken a toll on Singapore permanent resident Tiffany Mak, whose family is in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The 32-year-old has quit her job and is looking to move back to Singapore, where she had lived for more than two decades before she came to Hong Kong.

“I get burnt out all the time in Hong Kong because of the pandemic and the measures,” Ms Mak said, adding that it is hard to have a social life in the city. “I cannot see my friends, cannot see my parents too.”

Officials further tightened restrictions on Thursday (Feb 24), banning people from taking off their masks in public places, even for activities such as hiking or jogging, as the Omicron-led outbreak in the city hit new highs.

Public gatherings are now capped at two people, private gatherings are limited to members of two households, and dining in eateries is banned from 6pm. Businesses such as gyms and bars remain closed.

The vaccine pass, which started on Feb 24, bans unvaccinated individuals from entering many premises, including supermarkets, shopping malls and restaurants.

In addition, Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Feb 22 announced plans to test the entire population of 7.4 million for Covid-19 three times from mid-March, with resources and manpower coming from the mainland.

The mainland team is helping to beef up the city’s testing and isolation facilities and capabilities.

The developments in recent months have pushed many to seriously consider leaving Hong Kong for a few months until restrictions are lifted.

Said 32-year-old Singaporean Sue Ong: “For now, I’m thinking of going back to Singapore in April to escape the continued ‘lockdown’ in Hong Kong. But I’m also exploring the possibility of relocating for good some time next year.”

In some parents chat groups on social media, members who are most worried are those with babies and young children.

Some in the chats pointed out that there are not enough hospital beds to accommodate both the parent and the infected child, so some infected children are left alone in the hospitals for treatment.

But the Hospital Authority has since allowed some children who tested positive to remain at home instead of the hospital, where they would be separated from their parents.

The exponential surge in daily infections has stretched the limits of the city’s understaffed and overworked public hospitals, as well as isolation facilities, particularly the Penny’s Bay quarantine centre.

But officials remain firm on isolating every single case, as well as primary and secondary contacts.


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