Taking time out in Tung Chung

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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It’s early morning in The Moodie Davitt Interim Tung Chung Bureau and the mist is hanging like huge puffs of cotton wool over the mountains that loom behind this town on Lantau island. From my window I can just make out the Ngong Ping Cable Car, which connects downtown Tung Chung and Ngong Ping Village high above, the latter a gateway to the Big Buddha, Po Li Monastery and Tai O fishing village.

I’m on day nine of my 14-day quarantine in Hong Kong and looking forward hugely to being able to roam the neighbourhood below, which nestles by the waterfront just 6 kilometres away from a very quiet Hong Kong International Airport.

The authorities check in on us regularly, ensuring we scan our wrist tags to ensure we are where we should be. This morning we had to do a saliva test and send the results off to the Centre for Health Protection to ensure another all-clear before we can roam free from next Wednesday.

I suppose some people might object to that kind of control, I don’t. In fact, I applaud it. It is the sign of a government treating a deadly virus deadly seriously and kudos to the authorities for that approach. South China Morning Post this morning leads on a story detailing how health officials are scrambling to locate at-risk Hong Kong households after a job-seeking domestic helper confirmed as infected with the coronavirus shared accommodation within the last fortnight with 32 other foreign maids.

Click on the image to read the full South China Morning Post article

They call it a track and trace operation and you have no doubt that it will be successful. And here’s the thing – this Special Administrative Region of China has just marked its third straight day of fewer than 100 new infections and yet officials are treating this latest spike as seriously as if this was Wuhan in February or California, Florida or Texas today. Even at the peak of the current wave, Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on earth with a population of 7.6 million people, only recorded 155 new cases.

In contrast – in stark and terrifying contrast – America’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is receiving death threats despite his constant, coherent and consistent advice to take this disease more seriously. In several cities, authorities are struggling to crack down on parties, events and other large gatherings in both commercial and residential buildings. That’s in a country where 158,000 people have died and new daily cases are still above 50,000.

“It is what it is,” as President Donald Trump said in his already infamous interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios on HBO this week. Yes indeed, Mr President and it isn’t good.

Julián Díaz: “Light at the end of the tunnel”

Meanwhile, amidst all this turmoil, the travel retail industry continues to try to claw its way back into some semblance of modest recovery. As the global airport retail giant, Dufry is a bellwether for the sector’s fortunes, and its half-year results announced on Monday offer cause for modest – and I emphasise that word – optimism. “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” opined CEO Julián Díaz, pointing to improving year-on-year sales comparisons (40% of 2019 levels in early August compared with 20% in July). Long-term TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen often used to deploy that phrase, but frequently added a stinger, “I hope it’s not a train coming.”

Let’s hope so too. Any recovery was never going to be linear, nor was it going to manifest itself as a consistent global scenario. My recent travel experience through Heathrow, Hamad International and Hong Kong airports, and onboard Qatar Airways, underlines the great work being done by travel industry stakeholders to protect and reassure passengers. But business sectors can only achieve so much – personal, civic and government responsibility are the ultimate keys to how long this dark period in mankind’s history continues. Hong Kong strikes me as a pretty good template for those keys.

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