Handrails and hygiene

Hong Kong authority is nuts for holding the handrail. There’s signage everywhere. You should get some kind of prize if you manage to get through an MTR station without hearing an automated announcement that tells you to hang on. It’ll also scold you for looking at your mobile phone instead of holding the handrail, which is probably what you’re doing.

Hong Kong is also nuts for hygiene. The ghosts of avian flu and SARS haunt this city state. And, to be fair, with the population so concentrated that some people have chosen to live in cages, nervousness about spreading infectious diseases is probably not unreasonable.

When you have a cough or a cold public health campaigns encourage you to wear a surgical mask. Our guide book says you can ask for a surgical mask at the reception desk of most malls. Let no flu get between you and the latest hello kitty gizmo. My suspicion too is that, in a society known for a furious work ethic, the advice to colleagues with a sniffle isn’t “go home” but “put a mask on”. It’s not clear how effective this actually is. But it sure gives the city a definite dental clinic feel.

Put together the twin pillars of hygiene and holding hand rails and what do you get? Obsessive cleaning of hand rails. It’s announced to the world in signs like this one at a local restaurant.


It’s as if a fear of bacteria, rather than a determination to take stairs two at a time, is what’s holding you back from hanging on. Even if that’s the case, I’m honestly left wondering how you sterilise a hand rail.

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