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Listen to the facts, not the rumours

Listen to the facts, not the rumours

With the Covid-19 epidemic spreading from Mainland China and causing widespread disruption in Hong Kong and elsewhere, Boase Cohen & Collins Senior Partner Colin Cohen calls for calm heads and explains that it is business as usual in the firm’s office.

Hong Kong, 17 February 2020: Hong Kong has indeed been gripped by a virus in recent weeks. It is highly contagious and affects people of every age and from all walks of life. Except this virus is not Covid-19, it is anxiety.

Fuelled by a combustible combination of social media-driven scaremongering and our government’s lack of leadership and inability to communicate effectively, this anxiety has spread rapidly, affecting our daily lives in numerous negative ways.

Yet the reality is this: Hong Kong is experiencing the spread of an influenza-type illness which has so far infected 0.001% of its population. I would urge everyone to separate facts from myths, to read the science not the latest social media rumours, and to hear the views of experienced health professionals rather than friends and work colleagues.

I’m grateful to Dr David Owens, a General Practitioner with Hong Kong medical practice OT&P Healthcare and also Chief Medical Officer of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, for allowing me to share his regular health bulletin in which he calmly and rationally explains the nature, spread and risks of Covid-19. His authoritative comments are both informative and reassuring. Please do read this!

At Boase Cohen & Collins, we are in good health. Our various teams are in the office each day working in routine fashion. We are servicing our clients as usual, attending to our tasks and generally behaving in a serene and civilised manner. The message is, we are very much open for business, despite the courts being closed.

Of course, we have taken precautions, since the health and wellbeing of all who work here are paramount. With the help of our building management, we are observing strict hygiene regulations, with common surfaces such as doors, table tops and lifts cleaned regularly with disinfectant. Bottles of alcohol hand cleanser and boxes of wet-wipes are widely distributed and face masks are available for those who wish to wear them. We are minimising face-to-face meetings and liaising more via video link, telephone and email. I believe our actions to be sensible and rational. Many other private sector firms have adopted similar policies.

While we endure this challenging period, I believe we should also be using it as an opportunity to learn lessons and improve. We can enhance our preparedness for such situations and look at making better use of available technology to overcome the challenges of working remotely.

A good example is our court system. Hong Kong’s courts are currently closed – bar emergency hearings – at a time when there is already a huge logjam of cases arising out of some 7,000 arrests made during the recent protests. Yet other jurisdictions have been using video conferencing and telepresence solutions in their court systems for years. They have demonstrated how technology provides time-saving and cost-effective alternatives to travel and in-person interactions between all parties involved in legal proceedings.

Here, our courts are only just moving towards the electronic filing and sending of court documents – on a voluntary basis, it should be stressed – after seven years of consultations. Singapore, meanwhile, has had paperless courts since 2000.

But I wish to end on a positive note. As a long-time Hong Kong resident, I have witnessed time and again this great city’s ability to bounce back and we will do so again. Taking into account the views of eminent medical professionals and the contingency measures which have been put in place, I’m confident that Covid-19 will be effectively contained and that we will soon return to normality.

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