I am French by birth but I've been based in Asia for over two decades now. Living in Hong Kong, I'm not on the frontline of COVID-19, but I'm not far from it either. As someone who's innately paranoid, but also whose job involves thinking about black swans and the next 10 or even 20 moves on a chessboard, I have gone full prepper and am ready for this virus to get a lot worse.
I've been here before. I was in Hong Kong in 2003 when SARS broke out the first time. Then, it took a while before the situation was clarified: it was clear in HK that something nasty was going on but it was only referred to cryptically at the start. It was a few weeks before the reality became clear. Most people in Hong Kong today have no memory of that time at all.
This time, it was clear that something was up before Chinese New Year. However, I was distracted by the celebrations and only really started making preparations when it was over. In a situation like this, you need food for a month. I ordered a new freezer from Amazon in the U.S. at a cost of HK$5,000 (U.S.$643) and filled it with meat and fish from Australia (U.S.$772). I bought masks on Amazon in France and had them sent to us here. The same for bleach. In total, I've spent over U.S.$1.2k.
I'm not the only one concerned. A friend who runs a fund here has gone back to Switzerland with his family. A former colleague who was here for SARS and who now works in New York understands the risks of a more contagious version of SARS in the current context and that it may become necessary to split his trading floor.
Am I crazy? I like to consider myself a first mover. My wife doesn't always agree with my preparations, but we're now good for a month. Our maid says she can't get bleach here any more, so my store is already coming in useful.
And if we don't need all this stuff? We will use it anyway. Our maid is cooking us extra meals every night and we simply freeze those for use later. We'll eat them no matter what.
Personally, I expect that China will come through this. China is taking this virus very seriously and should be on top of things within a month or so. It's the rest of Asia that will be the problem then, and then the rest of the world. Infected cases are already present in Bangok, Jakarta and Manila and from there they will leak to Europe and to the U.S.. We're expecting to go to our house in France this summer, but by that time we may be better off staying here instead.
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