The U-turn by the government that will now allow the annual Lunar New Year flower markets to go ahead – albeit at a smaller scale – is yet another sorry example of policy flip-flops. This came just days after the popular fairs, scheduled for February 6-11, had been deemed too risky in the wake of the latest Covid-19 outbreak. The decision to reverse course underlines officials’ insensitivities and further undermines public confidence in their efforts to fight the pandemic. Hopefully, adequate measures will be taken to minimise the risks. The latest arrangements for the original 15 sites to operate with reduced capacity and hours will, on the bright side, add a festive touch to an otherwise gloomy Lunar New Year. But it also speaks volumes about government decision-making. The commercial interests of farmers, who spent months growing the flowers and other plants for sale, were at stake and they, of course, were outraged at the initial decision to cancel the fairs. The confusion was further clouded by the health chief’s unique understanding of what constitutes a U-turn. Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee was adamant that there was no question of “changing direction”. But the arrangement is clearly different from the previous undertaking that the authorities would explore suitable locations in public housing estates or other places in various districts for selling Lunar New Year flowers and other items. This is not the first time the authorities have had a change of heart. Last summer, officials were forced to rescind a ban on dine-in services during lunchtime just a day after its introduction amid a public outcry. The backlash over the Lunar New Year fairs has been just as strong. It has to be asked why the government went ahead with the auction for the stalls in November despite rising Covid-19 infections, only to then scrap the event amid a declining trend, and then revive it again as other health control measures were further tightened. Economic hardship is inevitable as Hong Kong experiences it fourth wave of coronavirus infections. But people should not have to suffer as a result of policy missteps. The government will have only itself to blame for losing public trust and cooperation if it continues to flip-flop on its policies in the battle against the pandemic.