The Transformation of Hong Kong
A drastic change came over Hong Kong during my supposed three month long business trip. This was not my first time in Hong Kong since I work for Walt Disney Imagineering and my team of engineers had been spending years planning the creation of the fourth Disney resort in Hong Kong. I had arrived in Hong Kong in mid-February 2003. My coworkers and I were staying at the Island Shangri-La which is located in the heart of Hong Kong, overlooking Victoria Harbor.
My first week and a half in Hong Kong could be classified as normal. Restaurants were packed when I would go to dinner with coworkers. Starbucks was bustling in the morning as I got coffee on my way to work, and Pacific Place, an amazing entertainment and shopping complex on the Island, was full of people from open to close. The only thing that might have seemed unusual to the outsider was the occasional individual wearing a surgical mask, which having spent a lot of time in Hong Kong and Japan, I came to realize was common in Asia. If an individual was sick they protected themselves and others by wearing the mask. All in all, this appeared as if it was going to be a typical stay in Hong Kong until the first week of March when things changed.
I distinctly remember the news reports which appeared about this mysterious disease that had appeared in the Guangdong Province of China beginning in November 2002. I remember my daughter worrying about me traveling to Asia with this unknown "killer." Yet, I reassured her that there was nothing to worry about since Hong Kong was quite a distance away from Guangdong Province. It turns out, that I should have taken my daughter a bit more seriously because, in hindsight, I know that on February 21, a 65-year-old medical doctor from the affected area of China checked into the Metropole hotel in Hong Kong. It turns out this doctor had contracted this disease from patients he had treated in Guangdong Province and then infected twelve other guests at the hotel where he was staying.
Between the arrival of this doctor and March 10, 2003 when the disease was designated as "severe acute respiratory syndrome," or SARS, many more individuals, mainly healthcare workers, had been affected by this acute form of pneumonia. Hong Kong had begun to go through a transformation. Many public places were empty; one night a few us of went to dinner at a restaurant near our hotel and we found ourselves as the only ones in the place. The servers at the restaurant appeared hesitant to assist us. In general, there was a distinct paranoia throughout the city. Many more surgical masks were being worn, especially since people were aware that this was an airborne disease spread through close contact.
And this only became worse after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert on March 12 about SARS in regards to the outbreak in Hong Kong and a similar situation in Hanoi.
The situation continued to...