Returning to Hong Kong was nothing less than an incredibly stressful trip. My flight had been unexpectedly moved up a week, leaving me with a day to pack all my belongings from my dorm to move into storage. At the airport, I felt underdressed in my mask as most of the other passengers were decked out in gloves, goggles and hazmat suits.
Once I got on the plane, I sanitized every surface in front of me with my little bottle of hand sanitizer. The aircraft was much emptier than usual, the seat next to me was unoccupied, which made me feel safer during mealtimes. I appreciated the extra space.
When I finally arrived in the city after an exhausting 13-hour flight, I received a tracking bracelet to wear during my compulsory 14-day quarantine, which was paired with an app to make sure I stayed home.
My experience quarantining alone in my room consisted of freaking out over every little cough and sneeze and frantically writing essays trying to make up for lost time.
Whenever I left my room, either to go to the bathroom or to grab a snack, I wore a mask to protect the rest of my family.
In the first month, I mostly stayed inside, completing my assignments and exams. There were very few local cases of COVID-19 and life returned to some sense of normalcy during April and May. But there were still big changes.
Everyone still made sure they were wearing masks when going outside; shopping malls and restaurants frequently administered temperature checks before allowing people in. I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask that I feel wrong when I leave my house without one.
And while it’s somewhat uncomfortable to wear a mask for long periods of time, I know that it’s to protect myself and those around me.
The glares you get from other people if you don’t wear a mask also adds to the incentive. It became normal to see people use envelopes or mask holders to keep masks sanitary during mealtimes.
Social media and WhatsApp groups became filled with posts about how to properly store your mask when they are not being used to minimize the chance of infection.
In July, the city went through its third wave of COVID-19 cases. Some days there were over 100 cases. Social distancing measures came back in full force, meaning that public gatherings could not exceed two people. Wearing a mask became mandatory in indoor places.
Dining-in past 6 p.m. was also banned. It is uncertain whether the number of new cases each day will stay up, but I have been staying home for the past few weeks as I have been let go from my summer job.
My attempts at staying healthy and active while at home have been futile. I find myself staying seated for hours on end with horrible posture, binge-watching Netflix shows. Staying motivated is something many are struggling with right now. I have to continually remind myself that it’s okay to take a break and relax.
Besides, why would I start on my readings when I can play Animal Crossing and run from all of my looming problems?