Unionists stricken with political fever

Editorial | Mary Ma 4 Feb 2020

With Hospital Authority medical workers stepping up their strike action despite the government's move to all but seal Hong Kong's borders with the mainland, there can be only one prognosis: they have become feverish with politics.

Their actions are totally unjustified, harming some of the most vulnerable members of society who depend on hospital services.

Thank goodness a majority of genuine medical professionals - including doctors and nurses who remain true to their calling - worked as usual to look after the sick, despite the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance claiming about 2,000 workers participated on the first day of the strike.

Last night, unionists voted to continue with their action, which has nothing to do with their stated concerns for the health of the community - but everything to do with politics.

Hong Kong must be the only place in the world where some medics have gone on strike in response to the Wuhan virus threat.

The novel coronavirus has so far claimed more 360 lives and sickened 17,000 in the mainland. Although these are official figures, the actual number could be higher as some cases may have escaped notice.

In Hong Kong, 15 people have tested positive for the disease but no one has died.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday announced additional measures to combat the virus that involved closing more border posts from midnight, leaving only three crossings open to travelers - the airport, Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai.

That's undeniably a U-turn on what Lam stated last week - despite her insistence that it was no such thing.

But that is not really the point. What is more crucial is whether the additional measures will make Hong Kong safer from the coronavirus epidemic that has forced local towns and smaller cities in the mainland to isolate themselves from outsiders.

Since the SAR's border was partially closed last week, the number of people crossing it has been greatly reduced.

Many of those still commuting every day are Hong Kong permanent residents, with a number working in Hong Kong and living in Shenzhen.

The number of daily crossings is bound to be cut further after more border checkpoints were closed at midnight.

As for those Hongkongers working in the SAR and living in the mainland, the closure of all but a land crossing in Shenzhen Bay will create considerable inconvenience.

In light of Lam's latest concessions, the Hospital Authority alliance should immediately call off the strike.

They should understand that it is impossible to shut down the border completely to Hong Kong residents as they have the right to return here.

There are hundreds of thousands of them living in the mainland and the border must remain open to them.

Using hospitals as political pawns must be strongly condemned.

When Hong Kong was hit by the SARS epidemic, none of our medical staff took off their gowns and deserted their patients when their professional skills were most needed.

In a public health crisis such as we are now facing, it's all the more important for frontline medics to perform their duties. They admirably did so 17 years ago, and should do likewise today.

And the question must be asked: even if the government granted all their demands and implemented a total ban on mainlanders, would the unionists be cured of their fever?

The medium- to long-term prognosis does not look good.

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