Photo Courtesy of Homan.

Unearthing a Ray of Hope as the Ominous Omicron Ravages Hong Kong

While every person takes their own route and faces a different struggle, we all end up at the top, watching the sun set over our beloved city in a dignified glow. For many of us, we just want to hold onto this light a little longer.

May 9, 2022

While the rest of the world had their head above the water battling Covid-19 the last two years, Hong Kongers lived as if the virus did not exist. Cut off from other countries by an isolationist Covid-19 policy that included a 21-day hotel quarantine, one of the longest in the world, it seemed as if the virus would never reach the city.
Except that it did, and it completely ravaged us.
In August and September last year, Hong Kong went 51 days without local cases. But as the highly infectious Omicron variant wreaked havoc on the world, the former financial hub was not spared either.
Omicron was first brought in by an air crew member who flouted quarantine rules. Another cluster of cases then emerged from a woman who contracted the virus while in quarantine, a case of cross-infection that resulted from the long isolation period and poorly ventilated hotel rooms. It then ripped through a public housing complex and spread to the entire city.
Following the news every day, cases rose from single digits to the tens, then the hundreds, then the thousands, then the ten thousands … While there were more than a million confirmed cases, it is estimated that the actual number is around 4 million as many cases go unreported. Elderly people slept outside hospitals in the cold as dead bodies occupied the same room as living patients … The scenes that emerged were simply horrifying.
So how did Hong Kong go from “Covid zero” to having the world’s highest death rate?
The answer lies in an inept government that is focused on kissing up to its Chinese bosses instead of protecting its people.
Echoing China’s approach of “dynamic zero”, the city sought to eradicate Covid-19 from its borders. Apart from the aforementioned three-week quarantine for travelers, all confirmed cases and their close contacts were sent to camps as well. Many Hong Kongers expressed that they were not as scared of contracting the virus as being sent to these facilities where conditions were less than optimal.
Vaccination rates across the 7 million strong population were dismal to say the least, especially among the elderly. The government did little to boost jabs apart from a few posters here and there. Not to mention, there was a lot of fearmongering among the community as media frequently reported on vaccine related deaths, causing citizens to scrutinize the vaccine. Coupled with anti-government sentiment stemming from the 2019–20 pro-democracy protests, many people bought into the conspiracy that getting jabbed would be more dangerous than not.
Yet even as vaccination rates increased with the onset of the Omicron-led fifth wave, the government did little to mitigate the circumstances apart from empty slogans of “dynamic zero” and contact tracing. Many of those who got jabbed at the promise of reopening borders and greater freedoms are growing increasingly disgruntled as policies have not budged at all.
Despite being lauded as a semi-autonomous region functioning on the basis of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong is getting sinicized by the day with freedom-encroaching acts such as the enactment of the national security law, press freedom violations and internet censorship. Schoolchildren are taught not to think independently and critically but to “love the country” no matter its heinous human rights abuses.
Therefore, when the motherland says they are sticking to Zero Covid, you can bet that the lackey will follow suit.
It pains and enrages me to see the inept puppet government spending billions on national security and a fraction of that on hospitals. They hired mainland Chinese carers at almost triple the salary of grassroots Hong Kong workers, with no academic nor medical qualifications other than the ability to speak Cantonese even as unemployment rates in Hong Kong continue to rise. Residents arriving from China or Macau were the only ones who did not have to quarantine while those from other countries had to be locked up for 14 to 21 days (out of pocket in a cramped hotel room with soggy rice, of course).
To add to the menace, the only candidate running for chief executive in the upcoming pseudo-election pledged to further align Hong Kong with Chinese values instead of improving residents’ livelihoods.
I miss the days when it was normal for kids to go to football practice after school and Disneyland on the weekends, instead of fighting tear gas and risking arrest to fight for freedom. I recall the days when we used to pride ourselves on our liberty and free speech, when now resharing a Facebook post could get you arrested. I yearn for the ability to call myself a Hong Konger without having to seek asylum just for writing an opinion piece in my school paper.
Here, we say that you are a true Hong Konger if you have the Lion Rock Spirit. Lion Rock is an iconic mountain that overlooks the city. It is an important landmark of democracy and tenacity, a symbol of those who never give up.
During the fifth wave, all gyms and football fields were shut down, leaving hiking as the only avenue of exercise. I have hiked up Lion Rock several times during this period on routes with varying difficulty, each of them offering a unique experience.
Photo Courtesy of Charlie Fong.
There are many paths up the mountain, from well-paved stone slabs to rugged terrain to steep crags. While every person takes their own route and faces a different struggle, we all end up at the top, watching the sun set over our beloved city in a dignified glow.
For many of us, we just want to hold onto this light a little longer.
Charlie Fong is Senior News Editor. Email her at
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