Behind the mask

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am

A daily look at how Hongkongers are coming to terms with Sars. Today we speak to 21-year-old Jeanne Ng Hoi-fung, a third-year philosophy and psychology student at the University of Hong Kong.

I was glad to get back to school this week. The two weeks off were really quite boring. You feel guilty going out when you know you're supposed to be home studying. Besides, where can we go? Definitely not high-risk places like karaoke bars.

I live in Kornhill in Taikoo Shing. A while ago, one of the residents in an estate near mine was infected with Sars. Then a person in my estate came down with it. Finally, two weeks ago, I found out that a tutor in my psychology department was confirmed to be infected with Sars and had been admitted to hospital. Luckily I had not been to the building where the infection happened or met the tutor in the last few weeks.

When the whole thing first started I was very worried about getting the disease. I kept suspecting that I had Sars. But I changed when a friend of mine, who was just as paranoid, came down with a cold. All the worrying had worn down her immune system and made her sick.

It's better to relax. If it is your fate to die, you will. Everybody dies some time.

I do take some simple precautions. I wash my hands before I eat or touch my face, I wash my clothes when I go home each day and I always wear a mask, even though it's very uncomfortable. When I eat out I check that the restaurant looks clean.

I like restaurants where you can see the chef cook. It makes me feel safer. I had planned to go on vacation in June but now I am afraid of catching Sars.

The government reacted too late. I think that if they quarantined people right away, like in Singapore, the number of people infected would be a lot less.

The future of Hong Kong looks grey. I don't think the Sars threat will pass quickly.