Hong Kong streets and shopping centres are strangely quiet and traffic is light.
Yes, we’ve been here before, but last time (just a couple of months ago) it was the protests whereas now it’s Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Many local people are choosing to spend more time at home (with some employers telling staff not to come into the office), there are far fewer visitors from the Mainland, and Carrie Lam has said that Hong Kong’s Foreign Domestic Helpers should stay at home on their one day off every week. That’s fair, right?
There have been long queues in supermarkets, with some panic-buying of food and cleaning products. As far as I can tell, although some food items are temporarily unavailable at times, there are no actual shortages (so far).
Surgical masks are a different matter. They started disappearing off the shelves in early January and now there are long queues for any that become available, and some crazy prices in less reputable pharmacies.
Alcohol hand rub is also very hard to find (even Cathay Pacific seems to have run out).
It’s a sensible precaution to wear a mask on public transport and in shopping centres (or anywhere that is crowded), but in the last couple of days I’ve even seen people wearing them outside in places where it would be almost impossible to be in close contact with anyone for more than a few seconds.
But we all remember SARS, and so it’s totally understandable that’s there’s an excess of caution.
The New York Times has a timeline here: As New Coronavirus Spread, China’s Old Habits Delayed Fight