An Ill Wind is Blowing: The Coronavirus HK vs UK

We jumped ship, dear reader. Only temporarily of course, we’re not rats and the ship isn’t sinking, but the cabin fever was excruciating. The extended boredom with school being shut, the office being closed and all of us confined in a small space, the anxiety in the air and the lack of loo roll persuaded us that the best thing to do was to head back to the UK for a while to ride out the storm.

Mildly ironic then, that we flew into an actual storm and had the bumpiest of landings.

Leaving Hong Kong: Passengers were Prepared

We were silent during the taxi ride to the airport. The airport was muted, lacking the usual excited buzz of travellers off on their journeys. Everyone wore masks. As we entered the security area, we were temperature checked.

We didn’t touch anything at the airport. When our bags were scanned we wiped them down with disinfectant. We cleaned our area of the plane, armrests, tables, window area etc. before sitting down. The passenger seated in front of me wore surgical gloves. A lady further to my right travelled in a disposable blue raincoat and shower cap.

passenger wearing blue shower cap on airplane during Corona outbreak

When we got off the plane, we wiped all the cabin bag handles again. When our hold luggage came off the baggage carousel, we used more wipes. When we got home we washed our clothes and showered immediately.

Arriving in the UK: Calm or Complacent?

Landing in the UK we waited 40 minutes on the tarmac, not because of any kind of health screening, but because it was so windy that they struggled to connect the airbridge without damaging the plane.

I was surprised that apart from a vague announcement (about approaching a member of ground staff should we feel unwell inside the airport), there was no evident health screening, no survey to ask us where we had flown from or advice what to do should we experience any symptoms. The lady at passport control did a brief double-take when she asked where we had flown in from and I answered “Hong Kong,” but that was it.

This is a new Coronavirus that, as yet, has no vaccine, appears to be highly contagious, tricky to treat, has a not-quite-yet-quantified incubation period and is asymptomatic in many carriers. With millions placed on lockdown in China and, in particular, Wuhan residents having been housebound for over a month, there is obviously concern and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of passengers ping pong across the globe and through airports. Any one of them could be an asymptomatic carrier and to date, the vast majority of travellers arriving in the UK have only been told only to self isolate at the point where they experience symptoms, surely that is too late?

Admittedly, there have been other things going on in the UK that people were far more focussed on than some vague viral threat unfolding half a world away. Brexit happened. There have been storms, rain, hail, sleet, snow and most disruptively record breaking floods that have ruined 1000’s of homes across the country. First storm Ciara, then Dennis and then Jorge due imminently.

All these things have served as distractions from the news of the Coronavirus, until recent days when cases started to mushroom in Iran, Korea and much closer to home, Italy. Suddenly, there is talk of contingency plans and hand sanitiser stocks are already evaporating from shelves.

We have a sense of déjà vu watching the headlines of fear splashed across UK newspapers and television screens.

Scarce Items

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong items such as hand sanitiser, masks, loo roll and rice have been in short supply. Loo roll so much so, that there was a recent armed heist involving several hundred rolls of potty paper.

Chinese New Year saw images of red envelopes stuffed with face masks rather than cash. On Valentines’ day, pictures of bouquets made up of these scare items rather than traditional flowers did the rounds.


The first items to disappear from Hong Kong shelves were rice and loo roll. On the other hand, the Italians are reportedly prioritising coffee and pasta.

If panic buying kicks in here in the UK, I wonder what will disappear from supermarket shelves first? Undoubtably tea, probably booze and maybe potatoes? I have no idea what potential panic buying will reveal about the British national psyche?

Your Guide to Coping with Coronavirus

Hand Washing Experiment and DIY Face masks and Hand Sanitiser

Handwashing: In my Typhoon in a Teacup post, I linked to a cool science experiment on hand washing. Check it out, especially if you have children who are a little laissez faire when it comes to hand washing. Wash your hands, catch your sneezes and pop the loo seat down when you flush. Don’t wear shoes in the house, don’t shake hands, avoid crowds, the list goes on and on.

Face Masks: In a similar vein, the South China Morning Post recently ran an article showing you how to make your own face mask. Yay, fun craft project for unintentional homeschoolers.

Hand Sanitiser: And if you can’t find any hand sanitiser, there are plenty of instructions for a DIY versions.

A Detailed Guide to the Coronavirus Outbreak

This article, also from the South China Morning Post, is a long read. It’s a seemingly thorough and interesting roundup of how the Coronavirus situation has unfolded.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

This hilarious Torn Parody went viral in Hong Kong and expat groups a few weeks ago.

Also the photo at the top of the post is of a real public service announcement from Hong Kong for Avian Influenza, but it could just as well serve for the Coronavirus. Take note and whatever you do, don’t blow on a chicken’s bottom!

What next?

On a global level, this looks like it’s just going to get messier. Dominoes are falling, affecting more and more individuals and economies. Stock markets are tumbling, many small businesses are struggling or failing. All this on top of bush fires in Australia, locusts in East Africa and beyond, social unrest hotspots and and and. When British citizens were evacuated from Wuhan back to the UK, they were met at the airport by four coaches belonging to a company called Horseman…..

On a personal level, our family is currently split between two continents, as my husband works from home in Hong Kong and the kids and I are grappling with home learning in the UK and an unexpected 3 month disruption to their education.

Hong Kong is certainly far better prepared than the UK. Schools and other public places were closed quickly and decisively and locals have mostly been trying to minimise their risk. The UK on the other hand seems to be dithering with decision making. However, with Hong Kong schools remaining closed until late April, we are enjoying the space and freedom afforded by being in a semi-rural area in the UK and are keeping a low profile, away from crowds.

Stay, go, hunker down, carry on as normal? There are so many questions and no easy answers. Panic, PANdemIC or just something we need to get used to? The picture is still unclear.

Has the Coronavirus affected you? Are you worried about it? Do you think it’s a typhoon in a teacup or the end of the world as we know it? A balancing of scales or an inconvenient blip?

2 thoughts on “An Ill Wind is Blowing: The Coronavirus HK vs UK”

  1. Hi! Welcome home (temporarily). Great article. We’re all a bit clueless here!
    I think this is going to get worse before it gets better. Just tried to stock up on hand sanitiser, paracetamol and ibuprofen and all my local shops were empty. Even the dependable Amazon had nothing for 4 weeks. Think will target loo roll next 😉. Hope you’re not badly affected by the storms. Xx


    1. Hope you managed to secure some loo roll. Not something you want to run out of! If you’re really stuck for hand sanitiser you could try making your own. It’s pouring outside and plenty of mini lakes in the fields, but no flooding so far. xx


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