When my family thought I had SARS…

In this post, we asked our friend in the community, Desiree, to share the background of a specific historical event and its impact on Hong Kong people and herself.

One significant event that immediately comes to mind is the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.  It’s hard to believe that it happened almost fifteen years ago back when I was still in secondary school. Up until then, Hong Kong had always felt like a safe (albeit hectic) place to me, and until then I had always just expected the top-notch health-care system to work as it always did.

When SARS occurred, however, it was as if the whole city had shut down, and the healthcare system was under a severe threat. The disease was so contagious that everyone stayed home as much as possible to avoid it, and school was suspended for months. I remember that many of our syllabuses could not be completed. This was when online learning resources like “e-class” were developed. We had to wear face masks all the time, and take our temperature every morning. At the time, there was no certainty of when school would resume.

SARS - Source: SCMP

We would listen to the news every night to keep abreast of the latest developments, and I remember stories of how one infected person could lead a whole housing estate, or even an entire community to be quarantined, or even infected. One carrier on a plane allowed the virus to spread globally through the air traffic system. The toll it had taken on the lives of our front-line healthcare professionals. Fear became a natural way of life.  On the rare occasion that we would actually leave home to go out, I couldn’t help but marvel at how bare the streets, shops and restaurants were. That was not the Hong Kong I knew. Soon, you could see that many of the shops, restaurants and other business had closed down by whole streets at a time, and the economy was not looking good.

“That was not the Hong Kong I knew.”

Those times stick out in my mind, and I remember contracting a common fever at the time.  I was put under quarantine for a week. My family would leave my meals outside the door, and knock to signal when the food was ready. Every time I had to do my business, the whole bathroom had to be sterilised.  That was the first time I had been confined for a whole seven days.  I had to find ways to entertain myself within the four corners of my bedroom.

To me, the SARS outbreak has also led to many significant sociopolitical changes that has impacted the way Hong Kong is today. For example, the policy change to allow people from Mainland China to enter the city freely so they would come down to spend money and boost the economy. How countries are now better equipped to combat a global health crisis. How It’s now basic courtesy to wear a mask if you are ill, and of course, the weird looks you will get if you cough in the MTR without wearing a mask.

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3 thoughts on “When my family thought I had SARS…

  1. Ruchira

    Strange, how an illness can bring about so many changes that the whole nature of the society changes. Very well written.

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