Hong Kong businesses that clung to life throughout the pandemic face the end of the line as they struggle with rising operating costs, supply chain chaos and the city’s “zero-Covid” policy.
In the days after the city circulated its latest virus measures this month, several shops, bars and eateries said they would close, the New York Times reported. The spread of the Omicron variant led Hong Kong to reinstitute a virus policy that it shares with China, requiring restaurants to shut down by 6 p.m. and leading to the culling of more than 2,000 hamsters, among other measures.
Local infections have jumped in recent days, putting health officials on edge, according to the Times. They’ve prevented Hong Kong from reopening its border with China, a priority for local officials under pressure to make the former British colony more like the mainland, the newspaper said.
Imports have come to a standstill and flights from eight countries are suspended, making the city among the toughest markets to do business, brewery operator Ian Jebbitt told the Times. Jebbitt used to pay about 2,000 euros ($2,269) for a container of hops prior to the pandemic, he said. Now he pays 15,500 euros.
Other businesses face similar challenges. Motorino, which has two locations in the city, is running out of tomato sauce after a pallet that left Italy months ago has been delayed four times, said Syed Asim Hussain, co-founder of the group that owns the eatery and 28 other restaurants. Sales at all locations after the new restrictions took effect were less than what just one brought in at lunchtime a month ago, he said.
“This is one tunnel where I don’t see the light at the end,” Tommy Cheung, who represents Hong Kong’s catering sector, told the Times. Cheung estimates losses stemming from the city’s virus measures — expected to last for several more weeks — to be at least $1.2 billion over a four-week period.
While Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, disclosed a $500 million pandemic relief fund for restaurants, shops and travel agencies last week, many businesses say it won’t be enough, the Times reported.
“The old-timers assure me that we are going to be OK,” Hussain, a fifth-generation Hong Konger, told the newspaper. “But I worry as a restaurateur, as an entrepreneur. I worry about the soul of the city.”
[The New York Times] — Matthew Niksa