ANOTHER SIDELIGHT ON the Omicron surge in Hong Kong: people are fleeing the city in the greatest numbers since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Government data show 27,703 net departures in the week ended February 20. That is a rise of 37% on the previous week.
Thousands of residents have left Hong Kong in the last two years, driven away by the fear of infection and the political crackdown. For the past two years, Hong Kong has seen its population decline at an annual rate of 1.2%.
That also includes a small but significant outflow of staff from international firms reassessing the city as a regional business hub. The city’s strict quarantine policies have made travel in and out of the city a particular problem for the dealmakers at financial firms.
However, the latest rise in people crossing into the mainland via the border crossing rather than the airport suggests that infection fears of residents are the primary motivation at this point.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has announced that mandatory testing will start next month and the school year curtailed. Elections to her own post have been postponed to May 8 from March 27 so her administration can devote its resources to fighting the outbreak.
The emigration has not reached the point of ‘will the last person to leave Hong Kong, please turn off the lights’, but the city’s allure is dimming amidst the pandemic, which may only accelerate its decline into being just another city in southern China.