Hong Kong orders thousands to stay home

HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands of Hong Kongers were ordered to stay in their homes yesterday for the city’s first coronavirus lockdown as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts.

The order bans about 10,000 people living inside multiple housing blocks within the neighbourhood of Jordan from leaving their apartments until all those in the area had been tested. Officials said they planned to screen everyone inside the designated zone within 48 hours “to achieve the goal of zero cases in the district”.

“Residents will have to stay at their premises to avoid cross-infection until they get their test results,” Health Minister Sophia Chan told reporters yesterday.

The government had deployed over 3,000 staff to enforce the lockdown, which covers about 150 housing blocks.

Residents were seen lining up for testing at more than 50 mobile specimen collection vehicles parked in the area and for basic daily supplies provided by the government.

Government investigators, wearing protective suits, gather in the Yau Ma Tei area in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

By lunchtime yesterday, around 3,000 people in the area had been tested.

Hong Kong was one of the first places to be struck by the coronavirus after it spilled out of central China.

It has recorded just over 10,000 infections with some 170 deaths by imposing effective but economically punishing social distancing measures for much of the last year. Over the last two months the city has been hit by a fourth wave of infections, with authorities struggling to bring the daily numbers down.

Stubborn clusters have emerged in low-income neighbourhoods notorious for some of the world’s most cramped housing.

The district of Jordan recorded 162 confirmed cases from the beginning of this year to January 20.

Yesterday, the city recorded 81 infections, of which 21 were from Yau Tsim Mong area where the restricted district is located.