Comment: Zero-COVID makes it nearly impossible to travel in and out of Hong Kong

The government’s draconian but clumsy response has also failed to protect its people. The city of 7.5 million people has recorded nearly 9,000 deaths from COVID-19, most since this year. The vaccination rate for people over 70 is only 65%; for three doses, the figure drops to 8.2%.

In the absence of cohesive leadership, Hong Kongers have turned to each other. An 80,000-member Facebook group provides information on meals and quarantine regulations.

It also connects people in quarantine with “buddies” on the outside for deliveries, animal care and camaraderie. When I tweeted about calling every quarantine hotel looking for a room, dozens of pleas poured in from other baffled passengers.

A NERVOUS EXPERIENCE

Stunned and exhausted, stragglers from Hong Kong to Istanbul gathered in the emptying terminal, sympathetic and sharing leads: a 6 a.m. economy flight, a late-open test lab.

Laurence Cheng, 27, a PhD student in Toronto, was trying to get to Hong Kong after her father died. He had already passed through Newark, Tokyo and San Francisco. “It was one of the moments in my life when I broke down,” he told me a few days later. “Honestly, part of me wanted to give up. I’ve never been so stressed in my life.”

After a match was finally found after 11am, we were herded onto a flight to Singapore. Every seat was full no social distancing.

But we were delayed and forced to disembark, and I realized with despair that my rushed contingencies a flight to Bangkok and a morning connection to Hong Kong would be impossible.

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