March 2022

Life in Hong Kong in January and February was dominated by the latest variant of the COVID 19 virus. Omicron is less virulent than the first four variants that struck the world, including our city, but more readily transmissible. Moreover the government here had wasted the 10 months from March 2021 onwards when vaccines became available and failed to secure a high level of community vaccination. The Budget that year gave out $5,000 per head unconditionally instead of linking it to getting the jab. Incredibly, the 2022 Budget has just repeated the same mistake.

Other ideas that could have driven up vaccination rates, for example making it a requirement for entry to popular venues (restaurants, malls, markets etc) were slow to be introduced. So when the 5th wave struck we had the lowest level of protection of anywhere in China and infection numbers soared. At time of writing (early March) it has been estimated that over 1 million Hong Kong citizens are carrying the virus. We have the highest death rate in the world. Such a disgrace for a modern wealthy city.

Inevitably, hospitals and other health facilities have been overwhelmed. Meanwhile the local population has endured the harshest quarantine regime in the world – only recently reduced from three weeks to two – and strict social distancing. Gyms, swimming pools, hairdressers and beauty parlours all closed, no outside dining after 6 pm, mask-wearing even in country parks, and so on. The situation became so bad that the local administration had to seek help from the mainland. Asia’s World City has been reduced to a beggar.