Face off: Is it a good idea for the Chinese New Year Fair to proceed during the Covid-19 pandemic?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they discuss whether Hong Kong’s annual flower market should take place during the fourth wave of coronavirus
Kelly Fung |
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People shop at the Chinese New Year Fair in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay. Photo: SCMP / Sam Tsang

Teresa Kwok, 16, South Island School

The Lunar New Year fair is a great tradition. So there is no doubt that going ahead with it would ensure a more festive season.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is not safe to hold such events, which bring together thousands of florists and festive goods vendors to parks and courtyards across the city.

Community infections are continuing in Hong Kong while we wait for the vaccines. I am therefore very surprised that the government made a U-turn over its earlier decision to ban the annual event.

The city’s health authorities have announced multiple measures to combat the fourth wave of the virus. They have appealed for more social distancing, while introducing lockdowns and a tougher Covid-19 testing regime.

Although people wear masks and there are crowd-control restrictions, thousands will still flock to the fairs, significantly increasing the risk of infection during this period.

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In addition, the venues will be packed with flower booths and snack shops, with the unhygienic conditions making the situation even worse.

Flower sellers told the government they would lose a lot of money if the fairs were cancelled.

But that is should not be the point; our health is more important amid the pandemic.

Even though the booths are allowed to open this year, it is doubtful they will make much money because of the smaller number of visitors that will be allowed.

Officials have expressed concern about people letting their guard down during the festive season. Recent Covid-19 cases have involved people who had taken part in large gatherings.

I don’t see why people should take a risk by visiting fairs. They shouldn’t have been allowed to open in the first place.

People shopping at the Chinese New Year Fair in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay. Covid-19 measures are in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Photo: SCMP / Sam Tsang

Charlotte Fong, 18, New York University Abu Dhabi

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than a year since the coronavirus first hit Hong Kong. While the return to pre-pandemic normalcy doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, at least we have the New Year fair to look forward to.

The city’s economy has suffered during the pandemic, with small businesses having little to cheer about in the past few months. People who sell flowers and festive goodies can now really make use of the boost provided by the Lunar New Year fair. They make much of their income during this time, so scrapping the event would have been unfair.

For most Hongkongers, this is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. The New Year fair is very popular among locals, and it will do all of us a lot of good to be able to get out, take a stroll, and look at what the stalls have to offer.

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Of course, crowd-control measures will be implemented at all flower markets.

The number of stalls will be capped at around half capacity at each of the 15 locations, with two hours a day set aside for deep cleaning.

Staff will be tested for the virus, with infrared sensors at the entrances and exits of each area to keep track of the number of people inside. A red alert will be issued when the capacity has been exceeded.

With public health risks at a minimum, there is no reason the New Year fair cannot go ahead.

It is time to put the pandemic behind us for now and embrace the possibilities of a New Year. It’s a case of balancing the health crisis with the demands – and joys – of the festive season.

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