After museums in Hong Kong tentatively started to reopen, they were forced to close again after a second wave of infections swept the region. According to ArtAsiaPacific, the number of cases of COVID-19 doubled in a week—Hong Kong recorded 157 on March 16 and 317 on March 23. On Wednesday, March 25, twenty-four more individuals had contracted the virus. The rise in cases, which is being attributed to residents returning from outbreak hotspots in Europe and North America, led the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to order all institutions that began welcoming visitors back after being shuttered for months to close. Among the institutions that were attempting to resume operations were the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the M+ Pavilion, the Xiqu Center, and Freespace.
Hong Kong’s approach to eradicating the virus initially proved successful—it implemented a strict social distancing policy and was an early proponent of locking down residents—causing other countries to view it as a model for how to contain the virus. Experts are now saying that it began lifting restrictions too soon. “We believe that a large number of Hong Kong citizens will continue to come back . . . in the following weeks because of the worsening situation overseas and hence confirmed cases will inevitably continue to increase,” Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said in statement issued on Wednesday. Lam added that the uptick in cases may lead to an even more difficult period as restless residents were starting to resume their regular activities.
Other countries in Asia including Singapore and Taiwan, which are among the nations that were earliest hit by COVID-19 due to their proximity to mainland China—where the virus originated—reported a similar reversal. Singapore claimed 80 percent of its new cases were also from people traveling to the country from areas still struggling to slow the spread of the virus. As of Tuesday, March 24, the country had forty-nine new cases, bringing the total number of imported cases to 326. Among the museums that closed again after the sudden increase in cases are the Asian Civilization Museum and the ArtScience Museum—both institutions confirmed that employees tested positive for the virus last week and have since undergone extensive cleanings.