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HK learns from first lockdown

By CHEN ZIMO in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-01-25 08:58
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Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam Cheng Yuest-ngor meets the press ahead of an Executive Council meeting at Central Government Offices on Jan 12, 2021. [Photo by PARKER ZHENG/CHINA DAILY]

Hong Kong had its first two-day regional lockdown on Saturday, involving more than 8,000 residents in Jordan, a central urban area and one of the most densely populated areas in the city. Officials and experts said on Sunday that the lockdown would lend valuable experience in coping with a possible severe regional outbreak in future.

More than 7,000 residents in Jordan were tested over the weekend and at least 13 infections were detected. The lockdown, which is expected to be lifted at 6 am on Monday, runs 16 blocks from Woosung Street to its east, Nanking Street to its south, Battery Street to its west and Kansu Street to its north.

Hong Kong reported 76 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, including 72 locally transmitted infections. The city has recorded a total of 10,085 cases over its yearlong battle against the virus since its first case was confirmed on Jan 23 last year.

About 60 more people were preliminarily tested positive for the virus, and would presumably be confirmed on Monday.

Among the new cases, 29 were from the city's high-risk areas in Kowloon's Yau Tsim Mong and Sham Shui Po, of which 14 cases emerged from buildings under mandatory testing previously imposed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

Starting at 4 am on Saturday, the SAR government sealed off 16 blocks in the Jordan area and required mandatory testing for all residents within 48 hours, in light of the spiraling cases in the area.

The district was considered the hardest-hit area in the city as a total of 162 confirmed cases involving 56 mansions were recorded in the area from Jan 1 to 20, with sewage samples testing positive at various spots.

With effect on Sunday from 6 pm, residents could travel in and out of restricted areas at designated entrances by showing text messages indicating negative coronavirus test results, said Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai.

He expected the testing would be completed by midnight, and restrictions and the mandatory testing declaration would then be lifted.

Over the weekend, Hong Kong officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, visited the specified "restricted area" on different occasions, and thanked residents for their cooperation and the efforts of 3,000 public officials in this operation.

Efficient operation

Lam and Cheung said the government would learn from this experience and may conduct similar operations in other regions. They asked for the understanding and cooperation from the people of Hong Kong.

David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in an interview with a local television program that the "efficient "operation in Jordan would provide a stronger basis for future action elsewhere and made a lockdown more acceptable to the public, in the event of infections being found in multiple buildings in the same area within a short period of time.

Before the lockdown, the government estimated that around 10,000 residents will be affected by the lockdown.

Hui said the government should have shortened the notification period of the lockdown, as some 2,000 to 3,000 residents were believed to have left the area by Saturday after hearing the news. He added that the health department should track these people to prevent further spread.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection's communicable disease branch, urged those who had left the area to take a test as soon as possible.

Doctor Leung Chi-chiu, infectious disease expert from the Hong Kong Medical Association, noted the importance of the government on developing the capability of mobilizing resources to tackle possible regional outbreaks.

It is also a chance for thorough disinfection and review of the whole area and plug transmission loopholes of the living environment, such as improving drainage facilities in old buildings, said Leung.

Ng Chau-pei, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the largest trade union in Hong Kong, said that the coordinated deployment to carry out close to full-scale testing in a region shows the execution capability and determination of the SAR government in the fight against the pandemic.

Lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun noted there is room for improvement after receiving feedback from residents. For instance, officials can provide more support for the elderly who may have problems with mobility.

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