Coronavirus Global situation

HK seals off parts of two streets for overnight testing operation

Carrie Lam warns that more small lockdowns could come even as govt extends measures

Civil servants in protective gear stationed at a building to check on residents in Hong Kong's Jordan neighbourhood on Monday, after officials locked down an area there on Saturday and ordered mandatory Covid-19 testing. The health authorities have s
Civil servants in protective gear stationed at a building to check on residents in Hong Kong's Jordan neighbourhood on Monday, after officials locked down an area there on Saturday and ordered mandatory Covid-19 testing. The health authorities have said that Hong Kong would add more specified areas where mandatory testing orders would apply. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaking during a press conference yesterday. She said that future lockdowns in the city would be on a smaller scale and more sudden than the one in Jordan over the weekend.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaking during a press conference yesterday. She said that future lockdowns in the city would be on a smaller scale and more sudden than the one in Jordan over the weekend. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The authorities last night locked down parts of two streets in Kowloon, hours after Hong Kong's leader warned that multiple small lockdowns could come, as pressure mounts on them to keep the pandemic under control.

Officials sealed off parts of Pitt Street and Tung On Street in Yau Ma Tei from 7pm, ordering people in the restricted area to be tested for the coronavirus. They aim to wrap up this blitz by 6am today.

This came hours after Chief Executive Carrie Lam said future lockdowns in the city would be on a smaller scale and more sudden than the one in Jordan over the weekend, even as the government expands compulsory testing in Kowloon and extends tough measures.

On Saturday, officials locked down an area in Jordan, also on the Kowloon peninsula, to get everyone there tested for Covid-19.

Part of the Yau Tsim Mong district, Jordan has recorded a higher number of cases than other parts of the city in recent weeks.

"Taking stock of our experience, we should be more focused in future testing operations, to narrow the scope of the area to, say, just a couple of streets or blocks. More of these smaller-scale operations can be done at different locations. This is something we will consider," Mrs Lam said at her weekly briefing ahead of the Executive Council meeting.

More than 7,000 people in 150 buildings were tested in the Jordan operation, with 13 cases detected.

Mrs Lam said more than 200 Jordan residents did not comply with orders to go for tests, urging them to do so. They could face fines of up to HK$25,000 (S$4,300) and a jail term of six months.

She said lessons learnt from the weekend operation in Jordan's restricted area include the need to seal off an area more quickly, be more "proactive and aggressive" in identifying carriers in the community, as well as cut the time taken for communicating, testing and notification of test results.

The Jordan operation had been a huge logistical undertaking that involved door-to-door round-ups of residents for testing, 3,000 civil servants and the distribution of 6,500 food packs.

  • THE JORDAN LOCKDOWN

    162

    Number of confirmed Covid-19 cases recorded in the area from Jan 1 to 20, which involved 56 buildings.

    > 7,000

    Number of people in 150 buildings who were tested in the weekend operation.

    13

    Number of cases detected in the operation.

    > 200

    Number of residents who did not go for tests. They could face fines of up to HK$25,000 (S$4,300) and a jail term of six months.

    3,000

    Number of civil servants involved in the door-to-door operation.

The health authorities said at the daily briefing later in the day that Hong Kong would add more specified areas where mandatory testing orders would apply.

Dr Chui Tak Yi, Under Secretary for Food and Health, said the original specified area in Jordan would be expanded to include more developments and retain the existing Sham Shui Po one.

To further cut community transmission, the government will designate a specified area in Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok, as well as one in Hung Hom.

Dr Chui said: "From today, in these four specified areas, any building with one or more unlinked confirmed cases, or where sewage samples tested positive showing risk of infection, will be subject to a compulsory testing notice.

"If a building has reported confirmed cases in the past 14 days, the government will prioritise sewage testing for these buildings and they'll be subjected to compulsory testing."

Rising case numbers in recent weeks from Yau Tsim Mong - a densely built district of old developments with cramped living conditions - had officials worried.

From Jan 1 to Jan 20, the specified Jordan area recorded 162 confirmed cases from 56 buildings.

Hong Kong recorded 64 confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday, of which 63 were local and 21 untraceable. The number of total confirmed cases is now at 10,222 and 172 deaths.

In giving a breakdown of the "severe epidemic situation", Dr Chui said Hong Kong recorded 318 infections from Jan 12 to 18, of which 365 were local and 33 per cent untraceable. From Jan 19 to 25, there were 494 cases where 469 were local and 41 per cent untraceable.

"In the past few weeks, asymptomatic cases made up 36 per cent of local infections," Dr Chui said, adding that current social distancing measures that had been due to expire tomorrow - such as capping public gatherings at two and shutting gyms and bars - will be extended for another week to Feb 3.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'HK seals off parts of two streets for overnight testing operation'. Subscribe