Infectious Diseases

Nowadays, with the improvement in hygiene and advancement of medical technology, citizens of Hong Kong suffer less from infectious diseases compared to the past. However, outbreaks of infectious disease can happen at any time. For examples, the winter influenza season taking place every year, the "SARS" in 2003, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have affected the Hong Kong society in many aspects.

One of the most serious outbreaks in the past decades was undoubtedly the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which caused more than 1,755 infected cases and claimed 300 lives[1], including 8 healthcare workers[1]. The World Health Organization once listed Hong Kong as one of the affected areas, which indicated the occurrence of chains of local transmission[2]. Nearly 300 residents in an entire residential building were evacuated and quarantined[3]. At the same time, tourism and the entire Hong Kong economy were curtailed, and tension, worry and grief were widespread in the community. In the 4 months before the pandemic finally ended, the city suffered enormous physical, economic and psychological losses[1].

In Hong Kong, the seasonal influenza has long been an existing challenge[4]. For example, there was a winter surge of seasonal influenza from 2018 to the early 2019. As of late Feb 2019, there were 446 severe cases reported to the Centre of Health Protection. Among these cases, 233 died[5]. Also, there have been 616 community outbreaks in total in kindergartens, schools, elderly homes and residential care homes for the disabled, affecting more than 4,000 people in these communities[5]. Toddlers were especially vulnerable to seasonal influenza – among the community outbreaks, around 70% happened in kindergartens and childcare centers[6]. Classes in affected kindergartens were suspended to halt cross infection[7]. However, the government later announced class suspension for all kindergartens and child care centers in Hong Kong due to the ongoing spread of infection[8].

In addition, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (hereinafter referred to as "COVID-19" by WHO), which broke out since late 2019, rapidly spread to many countries, becoming a global pandemic. Hong Kong was hence inevitably affected. As of March 2022 the cumulative number of confirmed or probable cases around the world reached 448 million[9], while the number of local cases in Hong Kong exceeded 230,000, of which more than 2860 people died[10]. Not only did the years-long pandemic deal a serious blow to the global economy, especially the aviation, tourism, catering, and retail industries[11], but it also brought a lot of inconvenience to people around the world and a major change in lifestyle. (For more information about COVID-19, please visit Special Topic: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In addition, some useful COVID-19 Related Resources from different institutions are provided for your reference and use.)


If an infectious disease outbreak is emerging or has happened, not only would the non-urgent medical services as well as public services and facilities be affected, but the public daily life might also be disturbed. Below are some tips to help you prepare for and get through the pandemic[12][13][14]

Prepare Now
  • Check regularly to ensure adequate supply of necessities at home in order to address temporary shortages which may occur in the beginning of the pandemic, including:
    • Regular prescription drugs;
    • Other nonprescription drugs and health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins;
    • Groceries (non-perishable food such as grains, frozen and canned food, dried food, and snacks) and daily essentials (such as toilet paper and other personal hygiene products);
    • Anti-epidemic items and cleaning products, such as thermometers, masks, household bleaches, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, liquid soaps, etc.;
    • Appropriate food and essentials for pets and family members with special needs (including the elderly, pregnant women, infants, and chronic patients).
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
  • Get vaccinations of respective infectious disease if needed.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals and other sources and store them for personal reference.
Survive During
  • Maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth especially after touching public installations like handrails or doorknobs. If it is necessary to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, wash hands with soap and water or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub before and after.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. This may prevent those around you from getting sick. Dispose the soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Use absorbent disposable towels to wipe away obvious contaminants such as respiratory secretions. Then, disinfect the surface and neighboring areas with 1:49 diluted household bleach, leave for 15 – 30 minutes and then rinse with water and keep dry. For metallic surfaces, disinfect with 70% alcohol.
  • Manage skin abrasions carefully.
  • Do not share towels or other items that may come into contact with the eyes.
Survive During
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Also, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.
  • Reduce social contact and maintain proper social distancing; reduce gatherings, and use serving chopsticks and spoons at meal times.
  • When experiencing symptoms, wear a surgical mask, refrain from work or school, avoid going to crowded places, maintain good indoor ventilation and seek medical advice promptly.
  • Cook all food, particularly seafood and shellfish, thoroughly before consumption.
  • Practice other habits that are good for your health such as maintaining a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing your stress and avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Seek medical advice promptly when feeling unwell.
  • If you are traveling and feeling unwell when outside of Hong Kong, wear a surgical mask especially if having a fever or cough. Inform the hotel staff or tour leader and seek medical advice at once.
  • Travelers returning from affected areas of infectious disease outbreaks should consult doctors promptly if they have respective symptoms, inform the doctor of their travel history and wear a surgical mask to prevent the spread of the disease.

When the epidemic situation is severe, a mandatory quarantine might be required. We can prepare for the quarantine in advance, including Formulating a Family Contingency Plan, preparing an Emergency Kit for Qurantine, and planning What To Do during the Quarantine Period to minimize the impacts of mandatory quarantine on our daily life.

If you are subject to quarantine or are hospitalized due to an infection, your family may also be affected. Therefore, in addition to settling yourself, you may formulate a contingency plan for the entire family in advance, so as to reassure and to reduce the negative impact brought by the epidemic to your family members, especially those who need special care.
Preparatory measures
  1. Contact the backup caregiver, and clearly explain the relevant information and necessities of the family members with special needs (or pets), including:
  • Copy of identity documents (such as birth certificate, ID card)
  • Health check reports and important medical records (such as vaccination record cards, appointment slips)
  • Food or drug allergy
  • Medications and time of administration (if applicable)
  • For young children, a "daily schedule" can be formulated to help them maintain a regular daily routine during the suspension and resumption of classes
  1. Explain your arrangements to the family members in need of care.
  2. Make sure you have adequate food and daily necessities at home according to the length of quarantine:
  • For the elderly or chronic patients, prepare enough medical supplies and medicines for use during the quarantine period (e.g. medication for 14-days)
  • For family members with special needs, ensure adequate stock of necessities (e.g. milk powder, diapers, etc.)
  1. Set up channels for communications between family members (such as phone calls, video calls) so that your family can contact you directly when necessary.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, various organizations have also provided support and resources to children and the elderly. Please refer to COVID-19 Related Resources if necessary.

[Click here to download the list in .pdf (Chinese only)]

After being notified that you are subject to quarantine, you are usually required to arrive at the quarantine location within a short period of time. You may refer to the following list to pack your own emergency kit for quarantine efficiently.

The facilities and supplies may vary at different quarantine locations. For example, there is no Wi-Fi service in some of the quarantine centers. Therefore, while packing the emergency kit, you may try preparing all the necessary materials. When the quarantine location is confirmed, spend some time learning about the facilities and supplies available in that place and take out the unnecessary materials from the kit.


Basic carry-on items:
Prepare necessary items, such as a wallet, ID card, mobile phone (with chargers), PIN-protected security device for online banking (if applicable), credit cards, etc.
Daily outfits:
Prepare appropriate daily outfits according to the weather and may consider using disposable underwear if necessary
Personal care and hygiene products:
Basic toiletries are available in some of the quarantine centers but not in quarantine wards. Therefore, pay attention to whether you have to prepare your personal care products and toiletries. If you go with people with special needs (e.g. infants, pregnant women, the elderly or chronic patients), you may prepare necessary nursing and hygiene products for them, for example, diapers.
Medical supplies:
Prepare enough prescription medicines for use during the quarantine period, such as the medicines for diabetes, heart disease, etc., based on personal health conditions; and prepare some over-the-counter medicines in case you need them, such as painkillers, antipyretics, gastrointestinal drugs, etc.
Household products:
See whether you need to bring small household appliances (e.g. electric fans, extension boards) or household items (e.g. laundry trays).
Anti-epidemic and cleaning products:
Prepare necessary anti-epidemic and cleaning products, such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers, liquid soaps, laundry detergents, etc.
Daily meals:
Quarantine centers and quarantine wards in hospitals generally provide basic meals, while some quarantine centers also provide dried food and instant noodles for free. You may consider bringing your favorite snacks to add some fun to your quarantine life. If you go with people with special needs (e.g. infants, pregnant women, the elderly or chronic patients), you may prepare appropriate food for them, such as milk powder and baby food.
Leisure goods:
Arrange leisure activities for yourself during the quarantine period in advance (please refer to What to Do during the Quarantine Period), for example, preparing computers, tablets, e-book readers, headphones, etc. (with chargers), as well as yoga mats, sports outfits, books, stationeries, notepads and other related items. Furthermore, as the quarantine location may not be equipped with Wi-Fi service, you can prepare Wi-Fi eggs, additional SIM cards, and mobile data service plans.

People who are undergoing quarantine will generally feel bored, which may affect their mood and adjustment. Therefore, in addition to packing the necessary materials, you may also plan what to do during the quarantine period to stay mentally healthy. Compared to home quarantine, there may be fewer choices while undergoing quarantine in a hospital or a quarantine center. Here are some activities for your reference:


Doing indoor cardio workout, stretching, doing yoga

Audio-visual entertainment:

Listening to music, watching movies, dramas, documentaries, online videos, talks (subscribe for the membership plan/ to download in advance)

Arts and crafts:

Drawing, model building, knitting, practicing calligraphy

Spiritual formation:

Praying, chanting, reading religious materials

Acquisition of knowledge:

Reading (books, electronic books (buy/ download e-books in advance), newspapers, magazines, comics, etc.), joining short online/ distance learning courses (e.g. courses of foreign languages, free courses offered by different educational institutions), learning new technology (e.g. new software), experiencing virtual museum tours

Social communication:

Keeping in touch with relatives & friends by using video calls & social media platforms, organizing photos in your mobile, joining different social media platforms/ forums


Playing Sudoku, puzzles, gadget games, online games, mobile games (download the games in advance)

Mental health care:

Writing diary, having mindfulness (please refer to Resources: COVID-19 Related Resources)/ relaxation exercises (please refer to Resources: Psychoeducational Materials), drawing Zentangle