Nursing homes make headlines for the wrong reasons from time to time. The recent Covid-19 infections in some elderly care centres have sparked concerns not just over their safety standards, but also the long-standing problems over government supervision. The latter is put under the spotlight again following the recent inquest of a patient believed to have been abused by staff shortly before he died of pneumonia in hospital four years ago. The case and the coronavirus outbreaks are of course unrelated; but they are disturbing reminders of how bad management and monitoring could aggravate the plight of the weak and vulnerable in society. In ruling the 2016 case as natural death, the coroner believed that staff had put gauze and tape into the rectum of the near-paralysed resident at the Cambridge Nursing Home in Ngau Tau Kok to avoid changing his diapers frequently. The court also heard that staff attendance records had been faked and different employees had given contradictory testimonies to try to shift the blame. The nursing group was embroiled in another scandal in 2015, with one facility in Tai Po accused of physical abuse after elderly residents were stripped naked outdoors while waiting for a shower. But sloppy regulation and slack enforcement mean breaches and abuses are not always met with the right level of punishment. In the Ngau Tau Tok case, the coroner questioned why the Social Welfare Department had not taken action despite apparent evidence of various contraventions. Welfare chief promises tougher laws for Hong Kong’s care homes She said although it was not the court’s duty to step into matters of legislation, law enforcement and regulations were loose, and punishment lacked deterrence. That also calls into question the safety of nursing homes in an epidemic. It does not take an expert to tell of the health risks inside such premises; and bad management and supervision make lives even more vulnerable. The welfare minister’s pledge to tighten standards with a bill later this year is just the first step. The coroner’s suggestions, such as blacklisting poor operators and more proactive prosecutions, have to be followed up expeditiously. This is not just for immediate protection for residents during the epidemic, but also long-term public interest in our fast ageing society.