Hong Kong business leaders reveal how they are coping, and adapting, to the new environment.
It’s a whole new world out there in 2020, and a whole new Hong Kong business environment. The protests and social unrest of last year are no longer top of mind for most of the city and its economy. That mantle has been taken by the new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, which causes the highly dangerous coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. In 2020, Hongkongers are focused on facemasks, handwashing, and social distancing as they work to “flatten the curve” of infection across the SAR.
Hong Kong is handling the pandemic well, at least comparative to many other countries and markets. As of the end of March, its government had not been forced to enact the strict lockdowns that have been a key pillar of public responses in Italy, the UK, the US, and Australia.
Still, that might be on the cards as this issue of Hong Kong Business goes to print. On 2 April, the Hong Kong government ordered all pubs and bars to close for two weeks—with many analysts expecting a longer and wider lockdown will be announced soon.
Businesses are obviously being impacted, with the nature of those impacts being wide and varied. Clearly, airlines, hospitality, and retail businesses have each suffered a huge drop in demand as customers choose, or are forced to stay away—and there have been thousands of jobs lost in these sectors. Hong Kong’s unemployment rate hit a nine-year high in February, at 3.7%, but even the most optimistic forecasts see that growing even further in the months ahead.
Other sectors are facing issues around getting workers to the places they need to be, and ensuring their health and safety in this new regime of avoiding human contact and close interaction. Many technology and office-based businesses have been forced to move to work-from-home arrangements for the majority of their remaining staff.
Meanwhile, essential service providers, including hospitals and healthcare providers, transport and logistics, and even supermarkets are all making do with the resources they have available to them in the best possible way.
View from the top
Hong Kong Business spoke to seven prominent leaders, from a broad range of sectors operating in the Hong Kong market. We asked each about how their organisations had fared over the tumultuous first quarter of 2020, and the specific challenges being faced as well as the solutions being developed. Their responses show a strong level of resilience across the business community here. For some, it has been the chance to test out some business continuity processes developed for this very situation, whilst others have adapted as the pandemic escalated, creating some new case studies in innovation and ingenuity. These are their stories.
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