Hong Kong is bracing for a potential lockdown in March as the city struggles to contain its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet, with daily infections surging to five digits and deaths rising. While local officials say they haven’t made any firm decisions, residents have been stripping supermarket shelves bare of supplies including fresh produce, meat, bread and over-the-counter medicines. Over the past two years the global financial hub has announced a series of unprecedented pandemic control measures to align with China’s Covid Zero strategy, even as much of the rest of the world opts to live with the highly infectious but milder omicron variant. A stay-at-home order would be another big challenge for Hong Kong’s people and economy.
It’s not yet clear, but domestic media reports have indicated it may not be the strictest version, where residents aren’t allowed out of their homes at all. According to local news outlet HK01, a limited lockdown will be imposed at the start of a compulsory Covid-19 testing blitz, which will run between March 26 and April 3. Residents will have to stay at home only for the first four days, with the exception of trips to pharmacies or supermarkets, HK01 said. Other media including Sing Tao Daily and the South China Morning Post have reported everyone will be tested three times during that period. The government has yet to decide how widespread the lockdown will be and whether to halt public transport, according to the SCMP. Sing Tao said core businesses such as the stock exchange will be exempted. In a statement March 1 confirming “possible arrangements” for a lockdown, the government said Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center would be taken into consideration. People who provide “necessary and emergency services,” including tens of thousands of civil servants, cannot be grounded, the city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said on Feb. 28.