Sun, December 05, 2021

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HK imposes city' first COVID-19 lockdown in Kowloon area


HONG KONG - Hong Kong is locking down thousands of residents for the first time over the weekend in a bid to contain a worsening outbreak of the coronavirus in the Kowloon area.

The unprecedented step for the Yau Ma Tei and Jordan areas - known for their night markets - was announced in a government statement at 4 am Saturday local time, citing chapter 599J of the Regulations on Disease Prevention and Control. Authorities aim to complete the exercise within 48 hours, a government spokesman said in the statement.

 This map shows the area of targeted lockdown in Kowloon, Hong Kong. (SOURCE: HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

According to the statement, the lockdown area is bounded by Woosung Street to its east, Nanking Street to its south, Battery Street to its west and Kansu Street to its north.

The districts are home to many aging buildings and subdivided flats in which the virus could spread more easily.

The government said that temporary sampling stations will be set up in the restricted areas and people will be required to get tested before midnight on Saturday, according to the statement.

They "will be arranged to undergo nucleic acid test in batches at specimen collection stations where dedicated staff will collect samples through combined nasal and throat swabs," according to the statement.

Residents will be required to stay at their homes until everyone in the specified area has undergone COIVD-19 testing and “test results are mostly ascertained”, the government said, adding it wants to allow residents to start returning to work at around 6 am on Monday.

The government will arrange door-to-door specimen collection for people with impaired mobility and the elderly, including those in elderly homes in the district, to undergo testing at home or arrange for them to collect and submit deep throat saliva samples by themselves.

If an employee is unable to go to work because of the announcement, the government hopes that the employer can exercise discretion and would not deduct the employee's salary or benefits.

Mobile testing stations for COVID-19 are set up in the Yau Ma Tei area, Hong Kong in the early hours of Jan 23, 2021. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)

The Food and Health Bureau will also issue a compulsory testing notice covering all premises in the restricted area. Anyone who had been to the area for more than two hours in the past 14 days must also undergo a compulsory testing before midnight Saturday.

“The government understands the residents in the district are worried and anxious because of the increase in confirmed cases in recent days,” according to the statement. “Under the epidemic, their livelihood is seriously affected as businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill.”

Hong Kong reported 61 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, bringing the city's overall tally to 9,928. The targeted lockdown also came as neighboring city Macao reported the first imported case since June.

The government has prepared simple food and basic cleaning tools for affected residents. The Home Affairs Department has set up hotlines 2399 6949 and 2835 1473, and a dedicated hotline (3755 6816) for the ethnic minorities. 

In a separate statement issued Saturday morning, a spokesman for the Transport Department said temporary traffic and transport arrangements have been implemented in the restricted area.

A total of seven bus routes and three minibus routes will be temporarily diverted, while some of the stops will also be suspended or relocated, according to the statement.

With Bloomberg inputs

Published : January 23, 2021

By : Wang Zhan China Daily/ANN