Here in Macau, and I dare say in much of China as well, we were like deer in the headlights when the tightly held-to Zero-Covid policy and associated restrictions of the past 3 years all but fell away two weeks before Christmas.

On the one hand this was greeted with much relief – finally some light at the end of the tunnel to getting our lives and businesses back to normal. But on the other hand we were taken aback by the speed at which Covid spread like wild-fire through the community and the challenges that brought. Up to 70% of employees across multiple industries went down with ‘the bug’ – leading to deserted streets and closure of many restaurants that simply had not enough staff to operate.

We were only too grateful that its omicron and not delta, that hit us. And grateful too with how well Macau has managed its vaccination programme – I gather over 85% of Macau residents have received their Covid shots which hopefully will ease the numbers that get seriously ill.

From personal experience of having dined and shopped in central Taipa several times during the week after Christmas, I can attest to restaurants running apologetically out of vegetables, 24-hour convenience stores closed by 7.30pm, long queues at pharmacies for test kits and a sell-out of all vitamin C medication. And even the big supermarkets shutting up shop early through lack of staff, lack of stock.

Christmas and New Year events, cancelled. Even family gatherings at home were postponed until guests and hosts tested negative again. At our home, unopened presents remained under the Christmas tree until jollier times.

So its been a very strange Christmas. And so as not to be accused of navel gazing, we look across the world at the trials, far worse, that others experienced – massive winter storms battering north America and Canada causing thousands of delayed and cancelled travel plans and millions without electricity over the holidays. The poor people in Ukraine suffering bravely on in the cold, without power, water, shelter. And don’t get me started on the plight of women in Afghanistan as their rights to education are abruptly cancelled. What a world!

Bring on the New Year I say – we need a fresh start, a fresh perspective, fresh ideas and renewed energy. See you in 2023!