SARS and the Arts

This coming Saturday (April 19) I will be singing in a chorus at the Forbidden City concert hall. At last night’s rehearsal, the choir director told us that he was considering canceling the entire thing due to SARS, which has caused many multinationals to send their expat staffs packing. Nearly all concerts have been cancelled in Beijing, it appears, due to SARS fears. We discussed it and agreed that there would be no sense cancelling; there is no way to predict when the city will get back to “normal,” if ever. We will be discreetly offering surgical masks to any attendee who would like one. If you’ll be in Beijing and want to hear some amazing music let me know.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with the CEO of a well-known Hong Kong company who told me that the city has in recent weeks become an utterly surreal place. It is virtually SARS City, and the media, he said, have made the situation far worse than it is. He cited reports in Fortune magazine and other international publications that “restaurants are empty” and “everyone on the street is wearing a face mask.” These are gross exagerrations, he said, and they are only helping to destroy the city’s economy unjustifiably. What is true, he said, is that the city’s anxiety level is being stretched to the limit. He described how prank emails about SARS disasters are circulating at a fever pitch, and at least one (on how Cathay Pacific was terminating most of its flights) was picked up by a local newspaper, increasing the general spirit of fear and misery.

So SARS is still alive and well here in Asia, no matter what the Chinese Minister of Health says, and it is top of mind with everyone I know, local or expat. The panic seems slowly to be shifting to a mood of grim resignation as people adjust to the fact that SARS may never be cured, and that it is something we may simply have to get used to.

The Discussion: No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.