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With the Covid-19 virus spreading through saliva droplets, wearing a mask and face shield has become the people’s first line of defense against the invisible germs. Authorities added social distancing in health protocols to be safe from pathogens discharged by asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

Transport authorities imposed an extra “no talking” rule for train passengers to minimize saliva droplet emission within confined spaces.

In Caloocan City, an ordinance against public spitting to help prevent Covid transmission has been in effect since last year as another countermeasure to saliva-borne coronavirus. Under that law, violators face fines of up to P5,000 or imprisonment for up to 60 days.

A somewhat similar anti-spitting ordinance took effect in Baguio City last year, though the intention was to discourage the unhygienic practice and keep surroundings free from unsightly red-stained saliva produced by chewing betel nut and leaves laced with lime.

The ban on spitting red betel juice, an old custom practiced by Cordillera elders to this day, was also adopted in the Ifugao towns of Kiangan, Lagawe and Lamut.

The Barangay Abatan council in Buguias, Benguet proposed an ordinance banning and penalizing the habit of spitting betel juice anywhere in public. It was in response to public complaints of the unpleasant and unsanitary reddish sputum that litter grounds. If passed into law, violators will be fined P500 for the first offense, P750 for a repeat offense and P1,000 for the third violation.

In Hong Kong, a somewhat related regulation to be introduced by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism may not only control the spread of saliva droplets in confined spaces. The move is part of the implementation of a national security law primarily meant to stop anti-China activists from encouraging public dissent and subversion.

It was an offshoot of the government crackdown on pro-democracy rallies in 2019, which had some protest anthems as its signature.

The new regulation taking effect on 1 October covers some 50,000 entertainment establishments in the Chinese special administrative region, which an unnamed official from the ministry admitted may be a challenge to enforce. Operators of the said establishments are expected to have an even harder time complying with the ban on subversive karaoke songs, which they have to remove to avoid harsh penalties. There are 100,000 titles in their catalogues.

For their part, karaoke customers will be singing at their own risk if they belt out tunes sung by protesters in their rallies, such as “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the musical Les Miserables and some songs of Chinese rock musician Li Zhi linked to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests despised by mainland China.

It remains to be seen if the ministry’s designated censors will also choose to ban songs like Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” or John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” that Hong Kongers who want to leave the island to escape feared political persecution may sing.

WJG WITH AFP @tribunephl_wjg