HK reopens district after thousands tested for virus

The Hong Kong government yesterday ended an unprecedented lockdown after testing thousands of residents living in Kowloon's Yau Tsim Mong district.
HK reopens district after thousands tested for virus

Health workers in white hazmat suits walk along a street as authorities tested residents for a second day in the Jordan area of Hong Kong on Sunday. The city’s first COVID-19 lockdown as lifted yesterday after testing thousands of residents living in the area.

The Hong Kong government yesterday ended an unprecedented lockdown after testing thousands of residents living in an area that had reported an increasing number of coronavirus cases, authorities said.

The lockdown, imposed in the early hours of Saturday, covered 16 buildings in Kowloon’s Yau Tsim Mong district, a working-class neighborhood with many subdivided apartment units.

During the lockdown, residents were not allowed to leave their premises until they had tested negative for the coronavirus.

The district has been at the center of a worsening coronavirus outbreak, with over 160 cases reported over the first three weeks of January.

Higher concentrations of the COVID-19 virus were also found in sewage samples, prompting fears the virus could be transmitted via poorly installed plumbing systems in subdivided units that lack ventilation.

The government said in a statement early yesterday about 7,000 people were tested for the coronavirus during the lockdown, with 13 testing positive.

The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly.

“Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement.

“The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”

The lockdown in the neighbourhood of Jordan, across the harbor from the heart of the business district, was the first such measure imposed in the global financial hub since the outbreak happened. Health minister Sophia Chan said Sunday that the government would not rule out similar restrictions in the future if there is such a need.

The government strived to guarantee the daily necessities of local people, providing food packs, face masks and cleaning tools.

About 50 working staff who can speak Nepali, Urdu and Hindi were also dispatched to assist ethnic minorities take the tests.

As of Sunday, Hong Kong has reported 10,086 cases of the coronavirus, with 169 deaths.

Hong Kong authorities have taken aggressive measures to curb the spread of the virus, including a ban on in-house restaurant dining after 6pm and closing facilities such as gyms, sports venues and beauty salons.

Most residents wear face masks when moving around the city.

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