Each story about a new case in Hong Kong sparked retweets and texts to friends. There was the family of nine sharing hot pot who all caught the disease, and then it seemed to have spread through the pipes of a building when two residents living on different floors caught it. Back then there was less information how it was spreading and how infectious it was. The first death in Hong Kong came in early February: a man who had traveled to Wuhan had crossed the border back into Hong Kong in late January.
Major events started falling. The Hong Kong marathon was canceled; schools, parks and museums were closed, concerts and festivals were postponed. Even Disneyland closed and offered up its land for quarantine sites.
It wasn’t just big events that were canceled. Small things changed too. Elevator buttons were covered in plastic and more frequently sanitized. Shop owners diligently scrubbed the handles of their entrances. Friends canceled dinners and parties. Restaurants and coffee shops were emptier, and some of them closed for good. “No fun stuff in Hong Kong anymore” was the refrain in my group chats.
The emptiness of the city and all the cancelations felt apocalyptic at first. Everything seemed to be over. The first time I had a temperature gun pointed at me, I prickled. It’s invasive to have something pointed directly at your forehead, and then there’s the twinge of fear that maybe you won’t pass the test. But then it became routine — walking into the building where a friend lived, mailing a package at the post office, meeting up with friends at a bar.