By Hans Ebert

On Friday night, a group of us saw in the arrival of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in muted fashion at one of our favourite bars: the bartenders had been ordered to wear masks whereas many masked customers sitting around us were staring down at their drinks.

Having been in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in 2003, those dark days came to mind. They had to. It felt like the end of the world. Or the end of Hong Kong as some of us knew it.

Iconic Chinese actor deciding to jump to his death from his hotel suite at the Mandarin Hotel added to the gloom and doom. It was on April 1, 2003.

The sudden news about the outbreak of Wuhan Coronavirus is seeing Hong Kong- and the rest of the world- doing their damnedest to quell the spread of this new virus.

The Hong Kong government has done what one believes to be the right thing by cancelling all public events where large groups of people would congregate- important and traditional CNY football matches, carnivals for families, outdoor pop concerts…

Coming on the heels of over eight months of relentless “social unrest” where Hong Kong has been allowed to be bashed to near-death, and which, only recently, looked like subsidising, this new pretty much lockdown mode for the city is tough to take. It’s another kick in the nuts. Another brick in the wall. Another unnecessary evil to tackle.

Happy New Year to 2020? Kung Hei Fat Choy to the Year of the Rat? Don’t think so. But one cannot applaud the HKJC enough for looking at everything- over under sideways down- and ensuring that, especially the auspicious race meeting on Monday at Sha Tin- a sign of hopefully good luck ahead and which attracts thousands of non racing fans- takes place albeit without the bells and whistles and with various safety precautions in place according with various government stipulations.

Arriving at making the best of a bad situation hasn’t been easy, but these have been done through insightful and level-headed leadership.

Perhaps these tough but necessary measures will be enough for horse racing to continue in this “condensed” form until this virus is contained.

Having said this, all these restrictions- and really think about that word- go way beyond horse racing.

The Hong Kong Government having to take these measures, though necessary, is another body blow to Hong Kong- the city and its people to whom this city is home and not a stopover.

At a time when money’s too tight to mention and many businesses have closed, and months and even years of planning by so many to repair Hong Kong and get this city back on its feet, this was the last thing needed.

The Lessons of SARS Never Really Left Hong Kong. Will That Help Stop an Outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus? – TIME

What’s needed more than anything else is some sign of positivity. Of hope. Definitely some good joss.

One has to wonder just how much more negativity the people of Hong Kong- the grassroots society, the homeless, the elderly, the lonely, and the millions with nowhere else to go- can take. And what we, as a community living in the real world can give.

#WuhanCoronavirus #Hongkong #HKJC #SARS #LeslieCheung #HKracing