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From SARS to COVID-19: Hong Kong’s Path to an Asia Free Health Zone



Bats are a known harbor to a large variety of viruses. Humans rarely interact with bats directly (they are not a common delicacy or pet in China), but other wild animals, such as civets and pangolins, do. Seventeen years before the outbreak of COVID-19, a coronavirus already made the jump to humans, likely starting with a farmer in Guangdong province in Southern China.

2013: SARS

In the case of SARS, it remained locally contained until a fishmonger from the Guangdong region was checked into a hospital in the province’s capital of Guangzhou on January 31, 2003. There, he infected 30 nurses and doctors.

Ten days later, China notified the WHO, but another ten days later, one of the infected doctors traveled to Hong Kong to attend a wedding ceremony. Within a day of his arrival, he felt sick and checked himself into a local hospital, where he died two weeks later.

Shortly after, other hotel guests checked themselves into hospitals in Vietnam, Canada and Singapore. Throughout March and April, SARS spread quickly in Hong Kong, infecting 1,700 people (80 percent of whom were infected directly or indirectly through the Guangzhou doctor), killing 300.

By May, Hong Kong’s number of newly infected cases dropped to the single digits, and by June the area was declared free of any infections. While some researchers infected themselves months later while handling the virus, the outbreak was declared contained in July 2003.

The SARS outbreak shaped Hong Kong forever. The two-week school closures remain vivid in the memory of all students; street markets were dramatically altered in its aftermath; bathrooms were remodelled and plumbing remade (over 300 people were infected in a single block of an apartment building as the virus spread through the pipes). Temperature scanners were installed at border crossings and fever clinics were set up, usually via a separate entrance to a hospital. Many employers, especially those servicing large numbers of customers, made masks available to employees.

2019: A New Virus

When Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang posted in a WeChat group for doctors on December 30, 2019, about SARS having returned, people in Hong Kong opened their ears wide and local media began reporting on it. When the Chinese CDC and the WHO declared in mid-January that there is no evidence this new virus could be transmitted from human to human, Hong Kong did not believe them. The local authorities confirmed their first case by January 23, 2020. On the same day, Wuhan was put under complete lockdown and the over 7 million people of Hong Kong knew the drill. They stocked up on masks, soap and hand sanitizer, cancelled their travel plans or returned from their trips to China. Blockchain meetups began to cancel their gatherings and venues closed their doors to talks and seminars.

Remembering the cover up by Chinese authorities around SARS in early 2003, residents  assumed the worst. They were convinced the virus was already among them and every returnee from China was a potential carrier. With its unusually long incubation time and the possibilities of asymptomatic carriers, the “Wuhan Pneumonia,” as it was then referred to in Chinese and Hong Kongese media, was taken seriously.

Having only recently unionized themselves in response to the 2019 Hong Kong protests, concerned doctors and hospital staff began to strike for border closures. While the government initially rebuked such demands as “discriminatory,” the pressure from losing 40 percent of their medical staff during an emergency became too high; major land and sea crossings were closed and all those arriving had to put themselves into 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Even without any official orders and while authorities at the WHO and China CDC were still playing down the threat, local restaurants and streets became deserted and events were cancelled. The feared epidemic, however, did not materialize. One month after the first case was reported, and as the first cases were officially recovered, only 73 cases were known, most of which had been imported from China.

Moving Toward Greater Surveillance

As the disease began to spread in Europe, Hong Kongers let their guard down. They reappeared in malls and restaurants, congregated under the unusually clear skies in Hong Kong’s country parks and returned to their desks. Europe seemed far away.

Another month later, by March 25, the number of total cases had increased to 350; over 60 percent of cases were recorded just in the past ten days. Throughout March, Hong Kong authorities began to significantly restrict International travel. First, only arrivals from Italy, Korea and Hokkaido were instructed to be quarantined, then arrivals from parts of France and Germany, then the entire Schengen area, then U.S., Ireland and the U.K., finally the entire world. 

As of now, non-residents are not allowed to enter or even transfer through Hong Kong airport. All ferry and cruise ship terminals have been shut. Those arriving from northern Italy are put into a supervised quarantine complex run by the government at a cost of about $25 per day, including board. They are not allowed to leave their room or receive visitors for 14 days.

Everyone else has to put themselves under quarantine at home or in a hotel. Other members of their household are advised not to leave their unit either. Those under quarantine have to wear a simple PVC armband, like the kind you receive at a festival or club. It is sealed and has a printed QR code.

The QR code contains a simple case number. It can be scanned using an app available on the Google Play and Apple App stores and connected to a phone number. It scans nearby Wi-Fi signals and uses their relative strength to determine if an individual has left their home. The “Stay Home Safe” app has been criticized for not working properly and is likely not very functional.

Most of the quarantined travellers are returning students and those who have been on short-term employment in Europe. Unlike in neighboring Taiwan, where those under a quarantine order are strictly surveilled and receive regular visits from the authorities. Hong Kong’s police are unable to follow up with everyone under quarantine. Instead, they are asking the public for help. Telegram channels exist where people can dox anyone violating their quarantine orders. A recently announced version of the wristband will connect to its holder’s smartphone via Bluetooth. If the connection is cut (for example, because the phone is left at home while the holder ventures out) the authorities are alerted.

Consequences of Isolation

Hong Kongers take SARS-CoV-2 seriously, and unlike authorities in Europe and America, the Hong Kong administration will work hard to completely eradicate the disease from the city, as it did during the SARS outbreak in 2003. They believe society cannot “coexist” with shutdowns for too long, and allowing COVID-19 to spread through society threatens modern civilization.

So far, chances seem good that the virus can be eradicated in the city without bringing the economy to a dangerous halt, with frequent temperature checks, voluntary self confinement at home, zero tolerance for leaving home while feeling unwell and facemasks for everyone. Other neighboring countries, such as Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore seem to be on a similar trajectory.

More worrying for now remains the medium-term future. Will travel to Europe and the United States resume this year? With outbreaks so massive, lack of testing and no political will to entirely contain this, it seems unlikely Hong Kong authorities will want to risk a third or fourth wave of imported cases.

It’s entirely conceivable we will see an “Asia Free Health Zone,” a loose union of places that are COVID free, and have policies in places to keep it that way. Tourists and business travelers are able to freely move between these areas, while everyone outside is required to quarantine for 14 days. With testing becoming more reliable and available, maybe this period can be shortened to just five days, in which no daily test is allowed to return positive.

The disruptions of daily life have already far exceeded those of the traumatic SARS outbreak 17 years ago. School closures are scheduled to be six times longer and might be extended beyond that. Even when Hong Kong was hardest hit by SARS, flights remained scheduled.

Cryptocurrency conferences such as Blockchain Week, Token2047 and SPOT are cancelled throughout July, and there is significant uncertainty around whether they can be held in the fall or even in 2021. Hong Kong lives off its massive financial services, accounting and logistics industries. It relies on food and pharmaceutical imports and has close to no domestic industry of its own.

It has a highly skilled and young workforce, but political considerations have made it difficult in the past to reinvent the economy on a more sustainable path. While “virtual commodities” like bitcoin and ether remain unregulated and freely convertible, the cryptocurrency industry is straight-up unwelcome among the multinational banks and local regulators.

Being highly internationally connected, Hong Kong’s fate depends on the economies around it. The efforts to contain COVID-19 cannot be locally isolated but have to be internationally coordinated. Authorities have to produce reliable data and look beyond their own population when implementing policies. Given the rise of isolationist nationalism and tense cross-Pacific relations, all of this seems more difficult than ever.

This is an op ed contribution by Leo Weese. Opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Inc.

The post From SARS to COVID-19: Hong Kong’s Path to an Asia Free Health Zone appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



UNI Token Price Stable Above $5.50 As Negative Funding Rates Rise




The UNI token price remains stable above the $5.50 level after seeing a massive inflow of investments in the past day. The biggest buy-side order outweighed the relative small sell orders from the users that got the 400 tokens after the airdrop as we reported in the altcoin news previously.

The uptrend was further perpetuated by other exchange listings such as Coinbase listing the UNI token, and binance listing the token within a day of the launch. This also gave the retail investors unprecedented access to the token which seems to be helping to offset the instant sell-side pressure which came as a result of the airdrop. It’s also important to note that the funding for the UNI token is giving bulls more fuel to push it higher with the rates sitting at more than $280,000 per year. The huge negative funding rates are also incentivizing traders to open the long positions on the cryptocurrency. The nature of the short positions will reduce the selling pressure that comes from the people that are trading UNI perpetual swaps.

uni token chart
Image Courtesy of DegenSpartan.

At the time of writing, the  UNI token price is sitting at $5.80 which marks a new all-time high for the cryptocurrency that has been climbing slowly higher over the past few days. it’s also important to know that this marks a huge rise from the $1.00 lows that were set shortly after the listing. The lows came above because of the intensity of the initial selling pressure from the users that sold the tokens that were initially airdropped to them.

Source: Uniswap

After the launch, the token garnered listing on a few exchanges including Binance, Coinbase, and FTX. This led to a huge inflow of buying pressure from investors and helped fuel the upswing. The cryptocurrency is trading around the all-time high as the bears are having a hard time making an impact. another factor that could influence the uptrend of the token is the massive negative funding rates for the perpetual swaps of the token. One trader also spoke about this explaining that about 0.1% of the users are paying each other to short the token which is making a strong bull case for the asset:


 “At -0.75% every 8 hours, or -0.0994% every hour, you are being paid 2.2% – 2.4% a day to be long UNI via perps.”

Assuming that this trend will surround the perpetual futures, UNI could rally higher in the upcoming days and weeks.

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Ethereum, IOTA, Compound Price Analysis: 19 September



DeFi token transactions continued to congest Ethruem’s network as Etherscan showed that addresses related to Uniswap had guzzled a significant amount of Gas over the past 24 hours. At the time of writing, Ethereum’s charts pointed to a likely drop. While on-chain metrics made a strong case in support of an Ethereum slide, it must be noted that traders’ sentiment toward the crypto-asset has been positive. Further, Compound and IOTA continued their bearish trend as IOTA’s mini-rally ran out of steam.

Ethereum [ETH]

Ethereum, IOTA, Compound Price Analysis: 19 September

Source: ETH/USD on TradingView

Ethereum was trading at a price of $382, at press time. The VPVR showed that the Point of Control (PoC) for the asset lay at $383.7. Further, ETH was facing significant resistance from $382 to $400, with the VPVR showing significant trading activity at these levels recently. The order book impedes a quick surge of the crypto-asset through this price zone.

As far as other indicators are concerned, the RSI showed a value of 55, at the time of writing. While the RSI noted bullish momentum for most part of the week, a weak bearish divergence was also seen.

The price had reached a ceiling, while the RSI formed a lower high, as highlighted by the white lines. This could forecast bearishness in the short-term for ETH and see it drop to find support at $363.

In other news, the US-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Pro announced that they would be passing on Ethereum gas fees directly to customers.


Ethereum, IOTA, Compound Price Analysis: 19 September

Source: IOTA/USD on TradingView

The Bollinger Bands had tightened around the crypto’s price, indicating falling volatility in the price movement of IOTA. This usually implies a period of consolidation for the crypto-asset.

In fact, the past few days also did not see a trading session with extraordinary volume and no breakout to either side had been achieved, by press time.

In other news, Jakub Cech, Director of Engineering at IOTA Foundation, recently released a development update that detailed the progress of Chrysalis (IOTA 1.5), Bee, and Hornet, among others.

Compound [COMP]

Ethereum, IOTA, Compound Price Analysis: 19 September

Source: COMP/USDT on TradingView

COMP’s charts highlighted bearishness in the short to medium trend as the 50 SMA (yellow) crossed under the 100 SMA (pink) last week, while the 20 SMA (white) crossed beneath the 50 moving average over the past couple of days.

The 50 SMA had also acted as resistance over the past week, with the price continuing to set lower highs. While the price did break beneath the support level at $152.9, the trading session had not closed, at the time of writing.

The Parabolic SAR also gave a sell signal and it appeared likely that COMP would slide to find support at $140.

Compound continued to hold the 7th rank on DeFiPulse with a total value locked of $703 million.


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Balkan cryptocurrency realm ready to replace ageing Dinar payment systems

The Balkan cryptocurrency realm is heating up. Various Balkan states are exploring cryptocurrencies in anticipation of bringing a huge financial revolution in the region. The daring few working in the Balkan cryptocurrency realm may very well reap huge benefits if they can successfully transform the region’s economic scenario. The consistent rise of digital payments is […]



The Balkan cryptocurrency realm is heating up. Various Balkan states are exploring cryptocurrencies in anticipation of bringing a huge financial revolution in the region. The daring few working in the Balkan cryptocurrency realm may very well reap huge benefits if they can successfully transform the region’s economic scenario.

The consistent rise of digital payments is a step in the right direction. The growth of alternate payment mechanisms is building a fertile ground for cryptocurrencies. For example, former Yugoslavian countries have bad memories of the 1990s hyperinflation era and therefore citizens lack trust in government agencies and central banks. Such an environment is apt for cryptocurrency promotion.

A lot is going on in the Balkan cryptocurrency sector

Censorship resistant cryptocurrencies offer numerous benefits over traditional financial systems. Arvin Kamberi of the Bitcoin Association of Serbia is confident that virtual payments will grow tremendously especially during the pandemic months. The region already has a decent crypto mining industry thanks to low electricity cost. Lately, the Balkan cryptocurrency realm has progressed on the digital asset and crypto payments front as well.

Serbia is exploring crypto law enactments to ensure optimum growth of the decentralized financial technologies. The nation wants to build a robust crypto trading sector. Slovenia is also working out the modalities of crypto legislations. It boasts of a vibrant crypto-friendly shopping and retail points.

Laying the foundation for Balkan cryptocurrency

Colibra, a crypto startup based in Bulgaria, offers Bitcoin compensation to tourists for airline delays. The town of Sveta Nedelja in Croatia has recently unveiled a payment system where shoppers can pay in cryptocurrencies. Telos, a popular blockchain platform, has partnered with Croatia’s Katalyo dApp platform, for real estate tokenization.

Douglas Horn of Telos Blockchain says that real-estate tokenization helps reap big dividend benefits and aids in rental revenue. He adds that Telos is creating solutions that help developers and builders leverage from fee-less, instant, and transparent tokenized systems. It is working towards decentralized economy systems and data storage solutions to add more value to the economy.

Industry experts are optimistic that Balkan cryptocurrency potential is just starting to unravel. Both the blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies have the potential to transform the region’s financial ecosystem and bring the region at par with neighbour European nations.

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