Home > science & nature > Spreading fear about Hong Kong’s prison homes

Spreading fear about Hong Kong’s prison homes


A Hong Kong prison home (Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)

A Hong Kong prison home (Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)

Hong Kong prison homes spur virus risk decade after Sars, according to Bloomberg, though I’m not sure the article makes its point.

The worst Sars outbreak in Amoy Gardens was caused by poor sanitary conditions (human excrement getting blown in through the ventilation system?!) rather than cramped “prison homes”. And Hong Kong’s role in global outbreaks is surely related to its proximity to China (where animals and humans are in close contact) and its highly transient population.

However, the risks are not uniform. People who live in prison homes face a terrible existence, to be sure, but they are probably not super-spreaders who are going to hop on a plane to New York. Nor are they likely to work in offices. New strains do not originate in places like this and are not spread by people who live in such places. Those folk are most likely at risk from the rest of us, rather than the other way round.

Yes, we should care about the conditions these people must endure, but it’s surely not necessary to stigmatise them further by making the dubious assertion that their existence poses a biological risk to the whole world.

We should draw attention to their plight because it is inhumane, not because it’s scary to folk in Springfield.

Categories: science & nature
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