It’s a bit unnerving to see so many locals wearing surgical masks over their mouth and nose: the staff at the airport, at the hotel, at the bookstore, etc. On the streets, I estimate 1 in 20 wear them.
Sure, HK saw a few cases of swine-flu earlier this year. But do they know something I don’t know? Nahhh. It’s just a healthy dose of paranoia.
In 1997, Avian flu struck Hong Kong, killing six. Then in 2003, along came Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which traumatized Hong Kongers when it claimed some 300 lives.
So their anxiety is understandable, writes expat guru Rory Boland: “At the slightest sniffle of a cold they will, quite sensibly, don their mask, thus stopping any disease from spreading.”
In this heat, though, I can’t imagine exacerbating my misery by breathing into a paper mask. However, I just may adopt another popular accoutrement here: umbrellas to shield you from the sun.