May 11th 2020 - United Service Lodge No. 1341, the first Lodge to meet following the resumption of masonic activities in Hong Kong
Meetings in Hong Kong: light at the end of the tunnel
24th May 2020: Masonic activities resumed in Hong Kong on 11th May following a seven-week period of suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hong Kong’s proximity to mainland China meant that we saw the first cases of COVID-19 in mid-January. Whilst few in number these cases triggered an immediate response in this city of 7.5 million people. Why? Hong Kong citizens had lived through the SARS epidemic in 2003 and well-remembered the containment requirements which were implemented at that time. Surgical masks coupled with alcohol-based sanitizers appeared in common use almost immediately; schools were closed and work-from-home policies for most were soon implemented. After a short delay the borders were closed to all but returning residents and testing, tracing/tracking, and quarantining were effectively implemented. During the period from mid-January to mid-March daily infection rates were mostly held to single digits and life, including masonic activities, continued more or less as normal although the District did implement policies designed to reduce numbers in the temples, and festive boards were eventually suspended.
In mid-March, when COVID-19 had established itself in Europe and North America, Hong Kong experienced a large influx of returning residents (mostly school children and university students). This, not surprisingly, led to a significant increase in total infection rates. As a result of this surge in cases, the District Grand Master, in line with prevailing Government social distancing requirements, took the decision to suspend masonic activities for an initial period of three weeks which would coincide with passing the peak of the recently imported cases. A District executive committee was established comprising the District Grand Master/District Grand Superintendent, his respective deputies and his District Grand Secretary / Scribe E. This committee met regularly, via Zoom, to consider the current environment and the conditions which would be necessary for consideration to be given for resumption of activities. Local Brethren in both the medical and legal professions were consulted as necessary.
Towards the end of April, it became clear that local transmission of COVID-19 had all but ceased. All returnees entering Hong Kong were now being tested at the airport and required to remain there in isolation until test results were received. Those confirmed positive were taken immediately into hospital isolation while all others were subject to fourteen days quarantine at home or in a government facility, depending upon individual circumstances. In early May, and again in line with Government policies, the District executive took the decision to resume masonic activities within very specific guidelines – these included adequate social distancing within the temples and at festive boards, no singing, minimized physical contact during ceremonies, and a rigorous 14 day prohibition for any Brethren who had travelled outside Hong Kong or who had been in contact with somebody who had done so. We continue to manage the number of attendees at installation meetings and those meetings which would traditionally tend to attract large numbers of Brethren.
When you consider the fact that Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with a population akin to London, our pandemic statistics are quite remarkable. As of 23rd May, Hong Kong has experienced a total of 1,065 COVID-19 cases, only 33 currently active, and with just four related deaths. As far as we know, there have been no cases of COVID-19 infection amongst our members or their immediate families and we have not as yet been informed of any brother or their family requiring financial, medical or any other type of assistance due to the pandemic.
WBro. Bryan Carter PAGDC
District Grand Secretary
District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East