covid-19

Society

Privacy concerns drive people away from evening dine-in

Despite relaxed social distancing rules and resumed dinner service, some Hongkongers still won’t eat out over the fear of personal data collected by the authority as the government requires all diners to record their detailed information for potential virus tracing. Eateries can resume dine-in service until 10pm with a maximum four people per table from Thursday, as long as they fulfill prerequisites, including staff getting Covid-19 tests every two weeks and diners recording personal information by scanning a QR code through the official “Leave Home Safe” app or by other means. The government’s controversial contact-tracing app has raised public concerns over privacy issues and abuse of data, as it will access user phone storage. Despite some online calls for boycotting the app, as of Thursday, the app download has surged to over 1 million since its launch in mid-November and seized the top position in the App Store.  “I see no reason for customers leaving personal information when eating out,” said restaurant operator Ryan Lo Tsz-yeung. “Our restaurants also have no right to ask for diners’ information.” Health officials have said on separate occasions that the virus-exposure app will only let the government know “who was present at the venues at a specific time” for potential tracing, while the encrypted data will only be stored in user phones for 31 days. Hong Kong Baptist University’s “BU-Trace,” launched last October and led by Xu Jianliang, Associate Head of the Department of Computer Science, is an alternative to the official app, Prof Xu said. “People can use other apps to check whether their information has been transferred to servers if they are skeptical of the government,” Prof Xu said.  Prof Xu also said the government could make their app open source, meaning publishing the software code for people to inspect the operating …

Culture & Leisure

Anti-pandemic measures baffle florists in Lunar New Year Fair

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cai Chuchu 蔡礎礎、Kwok Chiu Tung 郭昭彤Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-02-12

On Lunar New Year's Eve, buyers crowded the Mongkok Flower Market for last-minute shopping while the 15 government-organized festival flower markets were relatively quiet due to anti-pandemic measurements, which curtailed the number of stalls by half, limited visitors and slashed operating hours. The Hong Kong government once decided to stop organizing this year’s Lunar New Year Flower Fair but changed its mind to announce on Jan. 19 that the 15 flower markets would be opened for the festive period of seven days but with crowd-control measures. Many Hong Kong florists who planned to join the Lunar New Year Flower Market had already taken alternative plans including renting pop-up shops and selling online. “We have rented a shop for selling flowers, but the government suddenly changed after two weeks,” said Hung Chun-kit, 31, one of the florists. He said that they were not able to return the deposit to the shop owner and the government measurement made them lose their head. Even though the government exempted the rents for the 2021 Lunar New Year Flower Markets, it would not be enough to compensate florists’ extra costs and reduced sales. “The scale has been downsized with crowd-control measurement, customer flow is fewer than before. It is hard to gain profit even though the Lunar New Year Flower Market was uncharged, ” said Mr Hung. The scale of the fair had been down to 50%, the number of booths is limited. Therefore, florists continued to rent empty shops to sell flowers because these shops have no crowded-control measurements. “The government announcements are messing around our businesses, and this is an erratic situation for our industry,” said Tse Wong Siu-yin, 45, chairperson of Hong Kong Flower Retailers Association. Lam Sze-ching, 72, a florist who won the bid but did not join the fair while …

Business

Hong Kong hotels struggle to stay afloat despite staycation fad

Chui Yuk-hei, a 26-year-old event planner, checked into several luxury hotels in November. She enjoyed her stay at the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula Hong Kong and the Four Seasons. “I never tried them before because these top hotels were super expensive,” Ms Chui said, “but now they all offer affordable overnight staycation packages. It’s the best time to enjoy their services.” She spent about HK$9,000 on three hotels in total, less than half the original prices.  More Hong Kongers like Ms Chui are going on staycations, spending holidays in hotels this year. But amid the coronavirus gloom, staycations are not enough to boost revenues, and local hotels still face uncertainties. The fourth wave of Covid-19 infections started in the city in late November 2020. Before that, clusters of cases linked to staycations prompted the government to limit the number of guests in each hotel room to four people only. “Health concerns made many customers cancel their staycation, “ said Benson Soo Koon-chau, 46, manager of four-star One-Eight-One Hotel & Serviced Residences in Sai Wan.      “Staycation is a very up-and-down business,” Mr Soo said. “Many hotels’ staycation business has been largely affected. It’s unlike long-staying service, which people need to pre-pay, no matter whether they eventually check in or not.” One-Eight-One Hotel has increased the portion of long-term leases for customers staying longer than two weeks to earn more stable revenue, he said. “I won’t go on staycation any time soon. It’s not safe. Even before the fourth wave, I would check the health measures at each hotel first,” Ms Chui said.  The pandemic has hit hard on the city’s hospitality industry which already suffered from anti-government protests in 2019. The occupancy rate slumped to 39% in the first six months of 2020 from the previous year’s 90% for …

Health & Environment

Carrie Lam and government officials visit lockdown area Sham Shui Po on second day of ambush style lockdown

The government announced several more ambush-style lockdowns in Sham Shui Po, Jordan and Tin Shui Wai shortly after 7pm on Tuesday night. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Food and Health Sophie Chan Siu-chee and Secretary for home affairs Tsui Ying Wai visited the lockdown area in Sham Shui Po at 11pm on Tuesday night. Carrie Lam left shortly after taking to staff in testing tents and several citizens. A large number of police officers standby in the lockdown area.  17 blocks on Ki Lung Street, Nam Cheong Road, Tai Nan Street and Pei Ho Street are covered in Sham Shui Po lockdown. The testing is expected to finish by 7am Wednesday morning. Citizens are demanded to stay in until their testing results show negative for COVID-19. Ambush style lockdowns have taken citizens by surprise the last two days.  Several teenage girls were taking a tutorial class while the government announced the lockdown in Sham Shui Po, according to Apple Daily. The girls were let go after doing a COVID-19 test.  “We were racing out of the lockdown area when they sealed off the area,” Macy Leung, a housewife who lives in Sham Shui Po said. She added that the ambush-style lockdown was disturbing and she highly doubts its efficiency.  Mr Cheung Kin-chung, Chief secretary for Administration said on Monday that multiple sudden lockdowns will take place until Feb 11 ahead of Lunar New Year.

Society

Hong Kong tailor designs light wedding dress on a growing craze

Apart from long trail and princess-like cake wedding gowns, a young local designer -tailor designs and produces simple but sophisticated dresses, known as the “light wedding dress.” Despite the complex and difficult process in producing wedding dresses, Ms Lai dreams to bring the craze of light wedding dress to light and produce aesthetic wedding dresses for each bride.  According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the size of the creative industry has increased by 5.3% steadily since 2018. In spite of the growing industry, Ms Lai has faced hurdles along and questioned the support for the creative industry by the government. 

Society

Are colorful masks safe for health and environment?

Searching in the bags with colorful masks, Amy Ng picked out a blue purple one that matched the color of her blue denim jacket. Amy Ng, a 40-year-old lady, is heading to Tsim Sha Tsui to purchase some colorful masks for her family. “Since you have to wear a mask every day,” said Ms Ng, “why not wear it beautifully and happily?”  Masks have become a daily necessity in Hong Kong where the fourth wave of the epidemic is raging. Recently, colorful printed masks have become popular. But there are doubts whether they are compromising safety for fashion. The Centre for Health Protection website recommends using masks that have three layers: the water-repellent outer layer, the filter layer and the hydrophilic inner layer. The outermost layer is usually made of polypropylene, a non-woven fabric. It is the most crucial layer because it can prevent liquid from splashing, to stop the flying droplets from contacting the middle layer as well as the mouth and nose. “Traditionally the masks are blue, green and white. It is safe because the dye is already mixed with the materials,” said Joanne Yip, an associate professor at the Institute of Textiles and Clothing Department of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. To make the traditional blue and green masks, producers will put the dye into the polypropylene, melting them together and screening the fabrics out, according to Dr Yip.  With Christmas approaching, some stores now offer an array of masks with everything from Christmas trees, to reindeer and snowman.  MF Living is a store in Tsim Sha Tsui that offers more than 240 kinds of colorful masks. “Since our store opened in October, there has been a long queue of customers almost every day,” said Angela Lau, a saleswoman at MF Living. Ten masks cost HK$38 while DIY …