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Coronavirus: ‘Hongkongers are not indifferent to their plight’ - cafe owner delivers free meals, uplifting messages to Taipei health workers

May 29, 2021 GMT

Andy Lam’s cafe in Taipei has been suffering a loss since Taiwan’s Covid-19 crisis took a turn for the worse in the middle of this month.

But for five days a week since May 20, the Hongkonger and Taiwan resident has been delivering 70 sets of free meals to frontline health workers at the Taipei City Hospital Zhongxing Branch.

“I told the hospital I will supply free meals until the coronavirus pandemic eases,” he said.

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He stepped up his efforts on Saturday, pledging to deliver 50 free meals once a week to health workers at another Taipei hospital.

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With the recent surge in Covid-19 infections in Taiwan, eateries have been barred from having dine-in services since early last week and can only sell takeaway food.

Lam said he began sending free meals to Taipei City Hospital Zhongxing Branch after a customer told him the health workers at the public hospital had problems getting food when their canteen also had to close.

“Before the escalation of the pandemic in Taiwan, some of my customers used to say to me: ‘Add oil, Hong Kong’ ,” he said, referring to the message of encouragement used widely during protests in his home city.

“Now I want to tell Taiwanese to ‘add oil’. I hope to show Taiwanese we Hongkongers are not indifferent to their plight.”

Lam, who has been in Taiwan for seven years and studied architecture at a university in Taichung, has been operating September, a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng in Taipei, since September 2019.

He said it costs about NT$3,000 (about HK$838) a day to send free meals to the hospital.

“I hope the Taiwanese will remember Hongkongers lending a helping hand during difficulties on the island,” he said.

This week, the Taiwan Hong Kong Association, a group of Hongkongers living in Taiwan, began sponsoring some of the meals Lam is sending to the hospital.

To help cover part of his expenses, about 30 people have been buying food packets prepared by the cafe’s five workers each day.

Chou Yuan-chun, a social worker at the hospital who has been liaising with Lam over the meal deliveries, expressed gratitude saying: “Andy has been doing this without any hesitation.”

Lam has also been sending the health workers messages of encouragement written on the plastic bags he uses to pack the food.

These are taken from messages posted by Hongkongers to the Taiwanese on the Facebook page of Lam’s cafe.

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“I know many health workers have to work long hours and even stay in the hospital for more than 10 days without returning home. I hope the messages will give them a boost and let them know they are not fighting the pandemic on their own,” he said.

Chou said the hospital workers appreciate that extra effort. “We are deeply touched every time we see the inspiring messages on the plastic bags,” she said.

Lam also invited some YouTube personalities and Hong Kong artists to film video messages to urge people, including Hongkongers, to upload short videos of support for Taiwan’s health workers.

More than a dozen videos have come in so far, and will be uploaded onto his cafe’s Facebook page.

Taiwan has become a destination for a growing number of Hongkongers in recent years, especially since the city’s social unrest in 2019.

Figures from Taiwan’s immigration authorities show that 5,858 Hongkongers were granted residency and 1,474 obtained permanent residency in 2019.

A total of 10,813 Hong Kong residents were granted residency last year, up 84.6 per cent from 2019. Another 1,576 obtained permanent presidency.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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