The road leading up to Moodie Davitt Asia Headquarters in Discovery Bay is a joyous riot of pink as the flowers of the Bauhinia blakeana orchid tree – Hong Kong’s emblem – enjoy their final weeks of glory before taking a well-earned rest until November.
The Bauhinia blakeana – named after Sir Henry Blake, Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903, a keen botanist – has appeared on Hong Kong’s coat of arms, flag and coins since 1997 when Hong Kong returned to the Chinese sovereignty. As such, it’s a powerful as well as beautiful statement of identity.
For me, its winter wonder of colour serves as a lovely counterpoint to all the darkness of the world. So does the regular sight of aircraft heading towards or from Hong Kong International Airport above the hills across the bay, a reminder that our industry still functions, albeit on a sadly modest level.
The pandemic stretches on and on and despite the increasingly positive news on the vaccine roll-outs – and effectiveness – we’ve still got a way to go yet. Today’s South China Morning Post brought the good news that the Singapore and Hong Kong authorities are back in discussions about the previously thwarted air travel bubble in the wake of much-eased COVID-19 case numbers here.
Senior officials are also hinting at the possibility of reopening Hong Kong’s borders with the Mainland if enough people are vaccinated. Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee told a local radio programme: “For the good of yourself, your family and even the whole of society, I hope as many people can get vaccinated as possible so the overall benefit to the city is bigger. This way we can create better conditions for returning to normal life, economic recovery, travelling and reopening the border.”
Hong Kong received its first 1 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine on Friday and a mass immunisation drive starts immediately. The BioNTech vaccines, co-developed by BioNTech and Pfizer will arrive here by the end of February. I shall be getting mine as soon as possible.
More good news, too, last week as restrictions on entertainment services and evening dining were lifted, while hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong pupils returned to school today under an easing of conditions. However, as if we didn’t need a reminder that this virus can come back to bite at any time, daily infections rose for the third consecutive day on Sunday, with 20 cases recorded. Let us hope there will not be a sharp post-CNY spike.
In the UK, the travel industry has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to provide a ‘roadmap’ to get people travelling again this northern summer. And in Australia, the government yesterday reinstated its (one-way) travel bubble with New Zealand, meaning that Kiwis can again visit their Tasman neighbour without having to quarantine for 14 days. Canberra had implemented that temporary restriction after three locally transmitted cases were detected in Auckland on 15 February.
Lots of positives then but the whole situation remains precarious, like a set of scales with COVID-19 cases on one side and vaccines and eased numbers on the other. The moment the balance consistently tips in the latter’s favour is when we can really start to look forward to better days. Just as the Bauhinia blakeana flowers in winter so, eventually, will our industry bloom out of darkness.