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Swine flu – the Asian perspective

Swine flu – the Asian perspective

Me in a gas maskNever let it be said that the Chinese do things by half.

A friend of my parents flew over from South East Asia to spend some time with my parents in the UK. Amongst the things he brought with him were a set of face masks for my parents – it seems that after the 2002/2003 SARS outbreak, many households in Asia already had one of these and he thought it might come in handy. Fortunately, despite my coughing and sneezing, nobody has yet seen fit to actually wear one in this household, at this stage.

At least, till we watched the latest news from the Chinese Channel (run by TVB, one of the two major TV broadcasters in Hong Kong). This is one of the ways in which many Chinese ex-pats in the UK get their news.

So we have a reporter standing outside a Beijing hospital where there are a couple of suspected cases. Said reporter is wearing a surgical face mask while talking directly to the camera. And there’s also live coverage from the Hong Kong hotel where 300 guests and staff have been quarantined for a week after one guest reported suffering swine flu symptoms, although this reporter was brave enough not to wear a facemask.

Of course, if a virulent virus took hold in Asia, it’d be virtually impossible to stop. If nothing else, Chinese eating customs mean that when the whole family eats, everyone grabs their morsel of food from a central dish, with chopsticks clashing wildly sometimes…


  • I spotted the trend in Japan and one of my hosts told me it's usually the people *with* the coughs and sneezes that wear them so that they don't transmit the disease to others. Typical Japanese politeness.

    However, you're right on all other scores. So easy to transfer things via food utensils, toilet doors, peanuts on bar tops…

  • I was ambushed by a group of Chinese tourists in an elevator in CPH airport last Sunday. Each single one of them was wearing a mask, I wasn’t. So I smiled widely and got them all to laugh. And nope, I ain’t sick yet. The coughing comes from too much smoking these days…

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