Faculty of Social Sciences 50th Anniversary Seminar — Recovery from COVID-19 [CCL]




15:00 - 16:30


AAB 301

Registration (Deadline: 23:59, 30 May 2021)


Limited seats will be arranged on a first-come first-served basis.


Self Photos / Files - Finalized Poster


Speaker Abstract

Dr. Kelly Ku


Thinking Critically about COVID-19: Lessons Learned from Optimism Bias

COVID-19 presented a series of high-stake probability dilemma in which society and individuals need to objectively assess how much risk and loss each related decision would cost. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, studies from Italy, Romania, the United States, the United Kingdom and China reported the occurrence of optimism bias; consistent with previous endemic and pandemic diseases such as H1N1, H5N1 influenza, Avian influenza A/H7N9, and SARS. Optimistically biased individuals (falsely) viewed themselves as less likely to get infected with COVID-19 than comparable others. Review of studies pointed out that,


  1. Individuals falsely underestimating their personal risk were less likely to take appropriate risk-prevention measures such as wearing masks, adhering social distancing, or complying with stay-at-home orders.
  2. While optimism bias protects individuals from anxiety and fear, it increases the likelihood of virus transmission in the population.
  3. Optimism bias could demobilize our ability to learn more about the pandemic.
  4. Individuals’ optimism bias could be “corrected” if they were consistently exposed to accurate and adequate public health information about the virus epidemic.


In the time of a pandemic, a cognitive judgement bias could inflict high social costs leading to wider spread of the disease. Building a sense of control and hope, now is the time for us to make concerted efforts to recognize possible cognitive traps that can obstruct preparations for future waves of outbreak.

Dr. Gao Meng


COVID-19, Air Quality and Climate

Restrictions on human activities remarkably reduced emissions of air pollutants in China during the COVID-19 lockdown periods. However, distinct responses of Ozone (O3) concentrations were observed across China. In the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei (BTH) and Yangtze River Delta (YRD) regions, O3 concentrations were enhanced by 90.21% and 71.79% from pre-lockdown to lockdown periods in 2020, significantly greater than the equivalent concentrations for the same periods over 2015-2019 (69.99% and 43.62%, p < 0.001). In contrast, a decline was detected (−1.1%) in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region. Statistical analysis indicated that a sharp decline in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was the major driver of enhanced O3 in the BTH region as it is a NOx-saturated region. In the YRD region, season-shift induced changes in the temperature/shortwave radiative flux, while lockdown induced declines in NO2, attributable to the rise in O3. In the PRD region, the slight drop in O3 is attributed to the decreased intensity of radiation. The distinct regimes of the O3 response to the COVID-19 lockdown in China offer important insights into different O3 control strategies across China.

Prof. Alistair Cole and Dr. Dionysios Stivas


Trust, Transparency and Transnational Lessons from COVID-19

Comparing the mode of health crisis management in the four distinct jurisdictions of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, this article considers how varying trust-transparency mixes provide the context for understanding the public governance of the COVID-19 pandemic. The case of COVID-19 illustrates a trust-transparency paradox, whereby trust requires transparency (witness the reaction to early attempts in China to deny the virus and control information), but transparency can undermine trust (insofar as it focuses attention on the malfunctioning of liberal democracies and their uneven management of the crisis). Trust (inter-personal, civil society, political) is key to controlling the virus in the immediate sense, while transparency (and openness) is the precondition for a longer-term resilient and sustainable policy response. The relationship between transparency and trust makes the most sense in the context of open societies, where these concepts can be meaningfully investigated and correlated. The task of disinterested political leadership falls particularly on the shoulders of the main democracies that should work to guarantee global health governance.

Prof. Wong Man Kong


Unlocking the Lockdown in Education under the New Normal in Hong Kong: Some Preliminary Observations

This preliminary study looks into some selected cases to record and discuss what measures have been taken to address the issues and challenges in the delivery of instructional contents inside and outside of the classroom at both secondary and tertiary sectors. Special attention is given to attempts to how to incorporate community-based issues in education under the new normal.

Dr. Daniel Young


The Effects of Online Psychological Intervention for People with Emotional Distress

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, local community residents reported a deteriorated mental health, and a higher prevalence rate of clinical anxiety and depression.  However, even though manifesting anxiety and depressive symptoms, the majority of local community residents are resistant towards traditional face-to-face mental health services for assessment and treatment due to various reasons such as local social distancing precaution measures and social stigma, which is detrimental to their mental health. In response to this service needs, an online counseling program has recently been developed. Specifically, during an 8-week treatment period, participants learned eight online modules with one module to be completed weekly at home. Additionally, participant received weekly counseling service from an experienced social worker through the telephone in text messages and/or telephone call. In this study, a qualitative research method was adopted to explore, from the perspective of the participants, the effectiveness and quality of counseling services through the telephone in text messages and/or telephone call. By using purposive sampling research design, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 participants by a researcher between December 2019 and January 2020. Research findings of this study provides insights on the further development of online counseling program locally.

Dr. Li Yao Tai


Global Health Without Borders? Moral Boundary-Making Dynamics in the World Health Organization’s Discourse on the COVID-19 Pandemic

What lessons can members of world society learn from a leading health intergovernmental organization’s narrative about COVID-19? Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) discourse on COVID-19 from January to June 2020, we find that the WHO used morally charged languages to construct a cultural script for navigating the pandemic. In this cultural script, most criticisms are directed at world society as a whole. Meanwhile, a disproportionate amount of attention and predominantly high praise are given to a single country — China. Other countries are either mentioned far less frequently or described much less approvingly than is China. Accordingly, the WHO explicitly drew moral boundaries between world society and China, and selectively marked moral boundaries of certain other countries. We conclude that world society might have been misguided by the WHO’s selective moral boundary work deployed in the discourse since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study not only has implications for the ongoing debate over the WHO’s role in handling COVID-19, it also contributes new theoretical and empirical insights to research on world society and cultural processes of global health governance.

Dr. Duan Yanping


Social Cognitive Factors, Individual Preventive Behaviors and Health Outcomes in Older Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Older adults are at a higher risk of infection from COVID-19. Individual preventive behaviors (IPBs) including frequent hand washing, facemask wearing and social distancing in the public areas play an important role to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The research on the relationships among social-cognitive factors, IPBs and health outcomes (depression & perceived quality of life) in older adults haven’t been well addressed until now. To fill the evidence gap, five studies (cross-sectional design, prospective design) were conducted in Chinese older adults (n= 928; mean age = 67.24 years) and German older adults (n = 222; mean age = 69.09 years) via the online questionnaire surveys. Research findings indicated that (1) There were significant associations between key social-cognitive factors (i.e. health knowledge, planning, self-efficacy) and three IPBs. Such associations existed over time and also existed in a mixed sample of China and Germany. (2) Older adults who adopted more IPBs were more likely to have lower depression levels and higher perceived quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such health benefits were greater for older adults who were at the low-income households. The current research findings may inform interventions and policy-making on IPBs and health promotion in older adults.