People wearing face masks walk along a street of Causeway Bay amid COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, south China, Aug. 1, 2020.(Photo: Xinhua)
Hong Kong residents have voiced support for the postponement of the 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo) election amid a grave COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong.
Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam announced on Friday the decision to postpone for a year the election originally slated in September.
As Hong Kong has reported more than 3,500 infections and 37 deaths, the election, if held as scheduled, will likely boost the risk of infection as the event could involve as many as 4.4 million registered voters and 34,000 election staff.
"The postponement is for our health and safety," said a resident surnamed Ko, who is a safeguard of a residential block in Hong Kong Island.
With hundreds of people entering and exiting every day, two dwellers in the area that Ko is responsible for have been infected with coronavirus, he said. "Not to mention the LegCo election. The risk will be very high as millions of voters will come to the streets."
The government must have considered carefully and had no choice but to postpone the election, Ko said. "Both my wife and I support the government decision. Health and safety must come be the first priority."
As the epidemic showed no signs of abating, the financial company that Chun, a clerk in Hong Kong, worked for, has encouraged its employees to work at home.
From promotion campaigns to voting and ballot count, many activities of the election are likely to compound the spread of COVID-19, Chun said, stressing that the postponement is necessary to push Hong Kong economy back on track and ensure the safety of residents.
Weighed on by the epidemic, the combined income of restaurants fell sharply by 25.9 percent year on year in the second quarter and retail sales declined 33.3 percent in the first half from a year ago, official data showed.
Only after the epidemic is under control, people will go out to dine and shop and the catering and retail sectors and the wider economy will start to recover, a resident surnamed Lee said. "The HKSAR government is doing actively and wisely to cut transmission chains and avoid public gatherings."
Wong Tai Sin District was one of the hardest-hit areas amid the latest wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. So Ka-Lok, a community organizer of Choi Hung Estate in the district, said there had been 22 confirmed cases in the community and he worried about the worsening epidemic situation.
Given expected gatherings during the election, no one can guarantee that voters will not be infected, So said.
As some voters currently stranded in the mainland or overseas can not return to Hong Kong, their rights would be damaged if the election was held as planned, he added.
An organization named Hong Kong Community Anti-Coronavirus Link has collected more than 850,000 signatures online since last Friday to show support for the government decision to postpone the election for a year.
Observers also believe the deferment is proper as the election, which will lead to frequent gatherings and dense crowds, can only be held after an effective mechanism to trace and cut transmission chains is put in place.
With the one-year buffer period, Hong Kong will be able to build such a mechanism and focus on containing the COVID-19 spread and reviving the economy, observers said.