Hong Kong to place tens of thousands in lockdown for first time

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Hong Kong will place tens of thousands of its residents in a lockdown to contain a new outbreak of the coronavirus, the first such measure the Chinese-ruled city has taken since the pandemic began, according to the South China Morning Post on Friday.

The Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, said the new measure will target the Jordan and Sham Shui Po districts which cover a small, but densely populated part of the Kowloon Peninsula.

The districts are home to many older flats that have been subdivided to make room for more people, providing the kind of conditions in which the virus could spread more easily.

“Persistently high and spreading infection [in the areas] and sewage surveillance suggest the outbreak is not yet under control, and many silent sources still exist within the area,” a source was quoted as saying.

Health authorities in the city of 7.5 million first isolated four tenement blocks in the area last Friday, stopping people from entering or leaving those buildings to make sure all residents were quarantined.

The government will lift the lockdown declaration only when it is satisfied everyone in the area has been tested, the paper said.

Hong Kong has so far reported far fewer infections than other big world cities, recording less than 10,000 cases in the past year. The territory’s death toll stands at 167.

On Thursday, health officials reported 70 cases, 63 of them acquired locally, 16 of which had unknown origins.

Last week, the city extended work from home arrangements for civil servants.

Other COVID restrictions include a ban on in-house dining after 6pm (10:00 GMT) and the closure of facilities such as gyms, sports venues, beauty salons and cinemas.


Health workers wear hazmat suits as residents of a neighborhood queue up for a mandatory COVID-19 test after a spike in cases within the Jordan district of Kowloon [Anthony Wallace/AFP]

Hong Kong is also set to require flight crew entering the territory for more than two hours to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. 

Meanwhile, officials have ordered medical workers to refrain from socializing with others after four nurses from various hospitals tested positive or preliminary positive for the virus, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

“We would like to remind our colleagues not to eat together during work or holiday,” Linda Yu, a senior health official, was quoted by the news site as saying.

“It’s soon Lunar New Year holiday, we hope that our colleagues can tolerate for a bit [longer] and maintain social distancing.”

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