I was among the Covid exodus from Hong Kong to mainland China


Hong Kong confirmed more than 6,000 cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 last Thursday — another daily record – in addition to the 16,513 cases reported in the previous two weeks. The city’s total number of cases for the fifth wave exceeds the coronavirus figure for 2020 and 2021 combined.

I was among the first group of mainland Chinese students to leave Hong Kong amid the latest outbreak. I saw the number of cases increase dramatically and getting out at the moment felt urgent.

On February 8, the day of my departure, more than 2,000 people fled Hong Kong via Shenzhen Bay Port, the main port facility connecting Hong Kong to the technology hub of Shenzhen in southern China. That daily number was double the number of people leaving the city since this latest outbreak began in mid-January.

Source: Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department, graph via RADII

When I arrived from the Hong Kong side of the port, it only took a few minutes to clear customs. But crossing the port area of ​​Shenzhen was a whole other story: participants had to fill out numerous forms, take a nasal swab test and, the hardest part, wait a long time.

Parents of crying children, elderly people in need of special support, and people who were simply exhausted – we all shared the same feelings of unease and a sincere desire to get through this.

After a three hour wait at the port facility, I was assigned to a bus which transferred me to where I would be quarantined for the next 14 days. Everything worked in a closed loop.

However, some people had to stay there longer as they rushed to the site without completing some of the required steps – possibly failing to secure a quarantined hotel reservation.

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People line up for customs clearance at Shenzhen Bay Port. Image via Xiaohongshu

The Shenzhen government requires each participant to present a booking confirmation for a quarantine facility, known in China as a “health post” (“健康驿站”).

But demand for such facilities has wreaked havoc in Hong Kong‘s neighboring Guangdong province.

“Health resorts have been overbooked, with facilities operating at full capacity,” Shenzhen Port Authority published on his official WeChat account February 9.

“The port has found that demand for accommodation exceeds capacity, and some without booking confirmation have found themselves stranded,” the message continues.

A user on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media and e-commerce platform, job that he spent an entire night in the cold harbor hall due to the lack of quarantine facilities in Shenzhen and surrounding cities.

As Shenzhen quarantine facilities, with 800 rooms available dailywere already cramped, I was sent to a hotel in Foshan, a city 50 kilometers away, to begin quarantine.

In addition to the measures taken in Guangdong, my hometown in China’s landlocked Jiangxi province requires an additional seven-day hotel quarantine and seven-day home isolation.

The view from a quarantine room in Foshan. Image by Louis Liao

Two days after crossing the port, the university I attend, Hong Kong Baptist University, announced a move to an entirely online teaching program for the remainder of the semester.

For many mainland students like me who did not complete their studies in Hong Kong, the quality of Zoom courses, policy changes, and just plain uncertainty are of concern.

I hope to be back in Hong Kong, again via Shenzhen Bay Port, in the not so distant future.


17 hours of Covid confinement in a Shanghai shopping center

Cover image via Depositphotos


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