The city is facing a “third wave” of coronavirus cases, by far its worst spike yet.

For months, Hong Kong has avoided completely shutting down dine-in service at restaurants. A small spike in late April—when the seven-day average of new cases crept up towards 25—left the city relatively unscathed. However, now facing a so-called “third wave”—with the daily number of cases repeatedly topping 100—Hong Kong will finally be shutting its dining scene entirely starting this Wednesday.

A worker sits in an empty restaurant, which was only able to offer take out service after 6pm, due to the government's increased social distancing measures in the usually busy Lan Kwai Fong, a popular drinking area, in Hong Kong on July 15, 2020.
| Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE / Contributor/Getty Images

The new rules, which will last for at least seven days, will still allow for takeout meals. However, it’s a major escalation from a step taken earlier this month that prohibited service after 6 p.m., but allowed restaurants to stay open normally earlier in the day. Simon Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants, told Reuters that if restaurants in the city of over 7 million were forced to cut dine-in service for a month, the move would cost the industry about $645 million in revenue. “Even if we take subsidies from the government relief measures, we may not be able to survive this wave,” he was quoted as saying.

Hong King’s restaurants are especially important in the densely-populated territory because, as Reuters points out, tightly-packed living quarters means many people aren’t necessarily set up to cook even simple dishes. “Most of my friends don’t have kitchens,” a local was quoted as saying, “they eat out for every meal.”

That said, the residents of Hong King will not be forced to starve—beyond takeout meals, grocery stores will also still be open—but for the territories restaurants, things have gone from tough to tougher. Even before COVID-19 struck, the South China Morning Post reported that protests in the city were forcing some places to close. And in January, Bloomberg reported how many restaurants were take sides—either pro-democracy “yellow” restaurants or pro-Beijing “blue” restaurants—turning the simple act of eating out into a political choice.