Coronavirus crisis: Cautionary tale emerges from Hong Kong amid second wave of COVID-19 cases

HONG KONG -- Some areas of China that were first to be impacted by COVID-19 are slowly beginning to reopen. However, a cautionary tale is emerging in Hong Kong, where residents and officials thought the city was on the road to recovery.

People in Hong Kong have been locked down since January, and life as they once knew it was recently beginning to return.

"Two or three weeks ago things were finally getting back to normal a little bit," resident Tumshie Smillie said. "Offices were opening back up again, civil servants were going back into the office. People just felt like they could get out a little bit more while still feeling like they needed to feel safe and cautious of the situation."

But in a swift reversal -- in just one week -- all of the progress was erased. The number of COVID-19 cases jumped by 50 percent.

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"People were starting to feel like they could get back to normal because there were no new cases in Hong Kong," said Smillie. "That's probably a key thing -- that we hadn't seen any new cases for a number of days. The curve was definitely flattening. We hadn't seen deaths in a number of days."

One possible explanation for the recent spike could be the easing of restrictions. But another more likely reason is the surge in people coming back to Hong Kong.

Those who could afford to do so left during the height of the crisis.

All returning travelers, like English teacher Lindsey Williams of Ohio, are now subject to a mandatory 14 day-quarantine. She showed a reporter a wristband on her arm that indicated her quarantine status.

Hong Kong police says dozens of people have gone missing during their quarantine, and authorities have even caught a handful of people who defied the orders entirely.

More severe restrictions are likely coming for the city, just as the tide seemed to be turning.

"Now that there's a wave of people coming back to Hong Kong, we're probably going to have to endure that and possibly worse, all over again," Smillie said. "So I think there is simmering resentment between some parts of our society in Hong Kong."

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