Thousands of Hongkongers locked down as coronavirus cases surge

23 January 2021, 10:34

Hong Kong lockdown
Virus Outbreak Hong Kong. Picture: PA

The city has been grappling with a fresh wave of Covid-19, with more than 4,300 cases recorded in the last two months.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down on Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said.

Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. More than 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city’s total.

Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong’s Yau Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighbourhood with old buildings and subdivided flats – represent about half of infections in the past week.

Virus Outbreak Hong Kong
Government workers wearing protective suits gather in the Yau Ma Tei area of Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)

Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread.

Authorities said in a statement on Saturday that an area comprising 16 buildings in Yau Tsim Mong will be locked down until all residents have been tested.

Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes until they have received their test results to prevent cross-infection.

“Persons subject to compulsory testing are required to stay in their premises until all such persons identified in the area have undergone testing and the test results are mostly ascertained,” the government said.

Virus Outbreak Hong Kong
Residents queue for registration at the closed area in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

Approximately 3,000 people in Yau Tsim Mong have been tested so far, according to the Hong Kong government, joining the thousands of others around the crowded city of 7.5 million who have been tested in recent days.

Police guarded access points to the neighbourhood and arrested a man who allegedly attacked an officer.

The 47-year-old had reportedly been told he would have to be tested after entering the restricted area and would not be allowed to leave until he could show a negative result.

Virus Outbreak Hong Kong Lockdown
Residents look down from a building as they are forbidden to leave in an unprecedented lockdown (Kin Cheung/AP)

Hong Kong has previously avoided lockdowns in the city during the pandemic, with leader Carrie Lam stating in July last year that authorities will avoid taking such “extreme measures” unless there is no other choice.

The restrictions, which were announced at 4am in Hong Kong, are expected to end within 48 hours, the government said.

It appealed to employers to exercise discretion and avoid docking the pay of employees who have been affected by the restrictions and may not be able to go to work.

Hong Kong has seen a total of 9,929 infections, with 168 deaths recorded as of Friday.

By Press Association