The virus has also given pro-democracy supporters a glimpse into a tactic that was already being discussed as an alternative to violent street rallies — industrial action.
As a temple to all things free market, Hong Kong has a toothless labor movement and the biggest union is a solidly pro-Beijing front.
But after so many arrests of street protesters, pro-democracy union membership is now soaring.
Last month thousands of medics from a new union went on strike for a week calling for the border with China to be closed.
The government all but closed the frontier later that week, although it rejected any suggestion it had caved to the industrial action.
But there is little sign Beijing is looking to make concessions now the violence has dissipated.
Two new hardline officials have been placed in charge of the party’s most important offices for Hong Kong, including one known for spearheading a crackdown on Christians on the mainland.
President Xi Jinping has also signaled support for patriotic education and sedition legislation to be introduced in Hong Kong, two hugely controversial issues that previously sparked protests.
Many experts predict that the coronavirus could be brought under control by April or May in the best-case scenario.
That would be a relief for Lam and Beijing.
But it would also free up protesters — just in time for June, the one year anniversary of the movement.
“These protests have fundamentally changed the city,” said Sam.
“They aren’t going away any time soon.”
by Jerome Taylor and Su Xinqi