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Hong Kong's 'coffin home' dwellers stuck inside amid coronavirus outbreak

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:54s - Published
Hong Kong's 'coffin home' dwellers stuck inside amid coronavirus outbreak

Hong Kong's 'coffin home' dwellers stuck inside amid coronavirus outbreak

Living inside one of Hong Kong's notorious "coffin homes" is an unpleasant existence at the best of times, but the coronavirus outbreak has made life in the cramped, shared spaces even worse.

Joe Davies reports.

This three-meter square bunk isn't just Simon Wong's bed.

It's his home.

All his belongings crammed inside this one tiny space.

These notorious so-called 'coffin homes' in Hong Kong aren't a pleasant place to live at the best of times.

But since the coronavirus outbreak, Wong spends all but two hours a day in here, out of fear of catching the disease.

(SOUNDBITE) (Cantonese) COFFIN HOME TENANT, SIMON WONG, SAYING: "Now?

I can't go to the mainland, no more afternoon activities, I rarely go out.

I go home as soon as I finish my tea and grocery shopping, I come home and become a recluse and just watch TV.

I can't do anything." Wong's family cut contact with him many years ago.

This squalid, cramped space has been his home for more than five years, but he's lived in places like this for more than a quarter of a century.

The unemployed 64-year-old receives the equivalent of 385 U.S. dollars in social welfare a month.

Two thirds of it goes on rent.

The rest pays for two meals a day - normally rice and pork.

(SOUNDBITE) (Cantonese) COFFIN HOME TENANT, SIMON WONG, SAYING: "I don't go out anymore, there are no more gatherings, even though it's small, it still affects me.

Unable to buy face masks, I have to be frugal about it, I'll use one for two days." Wong's bunk space is one of 18 "coffin homes" in this dusty subdivided apartment.

The close proximity of his neighbors, especially those who have recently returned from mainland China, have him on high alert.

(SOUNDBITE) (Cantonese) COFFIN HOME TENANT, SIMON WONG, SAYING: "If we knew they were seriously ill, then we'd kick them out, as if we'd call 999.

If there was a situation like that, where they are coughing seriously then of course we'd send them out." The impact of the coronavirus outbreak is being felt not just by those infected by the virus and their families.

It's made the lives of those in poverty even more unbearable still.




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