Just over a year has passed since Hong Kong recorded its first local cases of COVID-19. Since then, there have been multiple waves of transmission, during which over 10,000 people have been infected.
Although the city has managed to prevent the widespread outbreaks seen in other regions of the world, the impact of the virus is still widely felt. Here are five graphs that help to visualize and quantify how the COVID-19 crisis has affected Hong Kong.
One of the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the loss of life. Up to 23 Feb 2021, the novel coronavirus has resulted in 197 deaths in Hong Kong. While this figure is sizable, the number of deaths in Hong Kong from COVID-19 remains low compared to many other regions of the world.
This graph shows each death as a coloured square, with the colour of the square representing the age of the deceased person. The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 have been amongst the elderly.
Based on data from Google, the graph visualises the day-to-day changes in mobility across various categories of places compared to a baseline period of between 3 Jan and 6 Feb 2020. Dark red indicates that significantly less people visited these locations, while bright green shows that many more people were present at these places.
The graph shows how the travel behaviours of Hongkongers have changed during the pandemic. As each wave of COVID-19 infections hit and government restrictions tightened, people reduced social activities. Mobility around retail centres, recreational facilities, parks, public transport, and workplaces all fell during each coronavirus wave. Meanwhile, mobility around residential areas was generally higher throughout 2020. This indicates that people were spending more time at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a serious economic downturn, causing levels of unemployment and underemployment to rise. The government has attempted to limit rising unemployment through the Employment Support Scheme. Launched in Apr 2020, the scheme aimed to prevent mass lay-offs by providing financial support to employers. Private businesses were given six months’ worth of subsidies to help pay employee wages, on the condition that no redundancies were made during the subsidy period.
The scheme ended in Nov 2020, despite calls for government financial support to continue. The impact of the government withdrawing subsidies for businesses will undoubtedly have an impact on unemployment, although this has yet to be reflected in official statistics.
4. Visitor Numbers
Following a large-scale strike by medical workers in early February calling for the closure of Hong Kong’s borders, the government imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine order on all arrivals from Mainland China. This quarantine order was later expanded to cover all overseas arrivals. The quarantine order for inbound arrivals was later extended to 21-days, and remains in place today.
Although the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law protests did have an effect on visitor numbers, the impact of COVID-19 has been much more severe. The pandemic and Hong Kong’s strict quarantine orders have pushed visitor numbers into the city down to just a few thousand per month. This fall has had a dramatic effect on the local tourism industry, which has seen sales plummet since the outbreak began.
5. Spending at Bars
Bars and pubs in Hong Kong were hit hard by the pandemic and government restrictions. This graph shows how the total amount of money spent at bars in the city has fallen throughout 2020.
Part of the reason for falling revenues in the sector has been the government’s tough restrictions on the opening of bars. A major COVID-19 cluster involving bars, during which 103 people were infected, forced the government to mandate the closure of all bars and pubs for several weeks. Since then, such establishments have been forced to close twice to combat the third and on-going fourth wave of infections. Bars and pubs remain closed as of 23 Feb 2021.
The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across all sectors of society. But, with Hong Kong’s vaccination programme set to begin in a matter of days, there is hope for a speedy return to normality.