Jet set ballroom dancing sparks Hong Kong’s fourth COVID-19 wave

By Mar Sánchez-Cascado

Hong Kong, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- Afternoons of tango, rumba or swing by the Hong Kong upper class in 14 dance halls, where the elderly assiduously practice these modalities with young people, have caused a serious fourth coronavirus infection wave in Hong Kong.

News of this resurgence has shaken Hong Kong’s high society, whose wealthy and powerful members have continued to meet in recent months despite the strict restrictions in place.

The prestigious Hong Kong Club, golf clubs, the racecourse or Michelin-starred restaurants are some of the places frequented by this elite, which have been the source of this outbreak.

“These dance clubs, which have nothing to do with discos, have the appearance of restaurants and are social spaces attended mainly by the ‘tai tai’ (Cantonese term used to describe the ‘wives of’),” a client of one of these venues who spoke on condition of anonymity told EFE.

“They learn salsa, ballroom dancing and other varieties from the hand of younger teachers, which implies very close contact,” he said. “Usually, most do not wear a mask.”

The “tai tai” are a relatively recent phenomenon in this part of the world, thanks to the rapid economic growth of the last decades, while dance partners – according to local internet forums speculation – would be “ducks,” a Chinese euphemism for gigolos.

After it was announced that patient zero of this regrowth was one of these “tai tai,” who had attended one of those salons, it was not long before videos, names and surnames of the women appeared on social networks next to their husbands’ occupations and companies.

The semiautonomous city has maintained prohibitions on large gatherings for much of the year and suspending the activity of some economic sectors when cases skyrocketed. But recently, daily infections have returned to or exceeded 100, triggering alarms.

Measures adopted had helped maintain total infections since the start of the pandemic at 6,499 (as of Dec. 3) in this city of 7.5 million inhabitants, in which 110 people have succumbed to the disease, according to official data.

However, infections are much higher than that of any other large Chinese city, except Wuhan, where the pandemic began.

Now, authorities have announced a new battery of measures: closing schools until next year, limiting two diners per table or closing nightlife venues.

Police have launched a telephone line for city residents to anonymously report anyone who violates measures.

Some residents say these rules are similar to surveillance methods used in mainland China, and could lead to political or personal reckoning by malicious individuals.

Ben Cowling, infectious diseases expert from the University of Hong Kong, told EFE that the fourth wave was foreseeable because it is unfeasible to maintain measures such as the social distancing for a long time.

“It is necessary to relax them when cases are low, but then we have to be prepared to see an unforeseen and rapid spike in infections. We are probably bound to follow the strategy of ‘suppress and increase’ control measures for a long time.” Cowling said.

To help the city to out of the pandemic circle, Cowling said the best strategy is to minimize events, and called on teleworking whenever possible and the prohibition of mass gatherings.

Another sector frustrated by the government’s reaction are parents and school teachers, who have endured up to three rounds of closures this year.

Chris Thomson, a secondary school teacher in Hong Kong, said being made to stay at home over the “tai tai”’s behavior is “unfair, immoral and shameful.” EFE-EPA


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