Hong Kong’s neon lights are still on, but COVID-19 has turned off a lot of the city’s usual energy. Instead, now there is an unusual sense of limbo.
Busy shopping streets and office districts are much emptier than ever before.
Fears of the new virus in mainland China hit Hong Kong in early 2020, but it’s only now that the city has hit a real low, with endless businesses closed either by government order or because of staff illness or lack of business.
Public transport has been scaled back, with buses standing idle in parking lots, and subways running fewer trains.
Francis Lun has worked in investment management in Hong Kong for decades and is known locally as a commentator on commerce.
He says current business sentiment is down.
“Everything was really starting to look up by the end of 2021, because we were looking forward to opening up with China at least,” he said.
“But all of sudden, the Omicron pandemic hit, and it’s completely out of control now. So after two years, there’s really no end in sight.”
Max Vogt, a Swiss national who has been living in Hong Kong for the past two-and-a-half years, criticized Hong Kong’s leadership over the way the pandemic had been handled.
“In terms of public health, we weren’t able to capitalize again on those two years where we had very low cases,” he said.
“We should have made sure that more people were vaccinated, that we made sure that we know how to get out of this situation, not following a zero-COVID plan, but rather a gradual process out of this situation.”
Hong Kong authorities have come under huge pressure since the fifth wave of virus began at the end of December.
The spiraling Omicron outbreak has swamped hospitals and morgues and reduced hours or shut restaurants and other shops in the normally bustling city of more than 7 million people.
People in Hong Kong don’t know what to expect next.
More isolation, and more virus tests, have been outlined so far by the powers that be while Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said authorities would not tighten pandemic restrictions for now.