Hong Kong to Order First-Ever Covid-19 Lockdown in Kowloon

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Hong Kong to Order First-Ever Covid-19 Lockdown in Kowloon” – below is their description.

    Hong Kong for the first time will lock down tens of thousands of residents in the Kowloon area to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak, local media outlets reported Friday, citing unidentified people. The lockdown is expected to begin this weekend in Yau Tsim Mong, the core urban district of Kowloon, the South China Morning Post and HK01 said. It covers a mandatory testing area where aging buildings and subdivided flats populated by lower-income families are common.

    SCMP earlier indicated that parts of Sham Shui Po would also be locked down, but later updated to say the district would not be affected.

    Only residents who show negative Covid-19 test results will be allowed to leave the lockdown area, according to the SCMP report, specifying that exemptions will be allowed for those who need to seek medical consultation or face physical harm.

    HK01 said each building would be guarded by government staff to ensure people leaving the building have a negative test result. They will also send enforcement officials to each flat to ensure residents have taken a test.

    The reported measures pale in comparison with the lockdowns adopted in mainland China, where a hardline approach bans people from leaving cities, districts or even their apartment complexes. But it’s the most severe step Hong Kong has taken to control the pathogen, and a blow to the government’s approach of trying to keep the economy largely running during the pandemic.

    Despite almost two months of social distancing, the former British colony’s infection curve has ticked up again as colder weather and faster-spreading variants pose a greater threat.

    The rise in cases, while far less dramatic compared with global cities such as London and New York, has spurred the government to put in place restrictions such as the closure of schools and some businesses. But until now it has been reluctant to adopt stricter measures such as lockdowns, out of concern they could ignite a crisis in a city that has already been rocked by protests.

    Even a limited lockdown in Hong Kong would introduce heavy restrictions of movement in the highly populated city with some of the smallest living spaces in the world — the average apartment is about 500 square feet. It’s not uncommon for poorer residents in the affected Kowloon areas to live in spaces big enough only for a bed, with communal kitchen and toilet facilities.

    The lockdown neighborhood is located in an older, lower-income district of Kowloon, though the city’s density means it’s a stone’s throw from glittering skyscrapers like the International Commerce Centre, where the offices of Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG are located.

    The lockdown will only be lifted when the government is satisfied that everyone has been tested in the area, the SCMP report said.

    Leung Chi-chiu, former chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said the more stringent measures are meaningless because cases are already being found outside the designated areas. The spread will continue through cross-transmission within families and across multiple incubation periods, Leung said.

    The stricter measures come as Hong Kong is set to roll out its vaccine program, which could help to soothe anxious residents seeing inoculation efforts start earlier in mainland China and rival financial hub Singapore. The government is expected to grant emergency approval for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot soon after its expert panel recommended the greenlight last week.

    Hong Kong has seen 167 deaths from Covid-19 — still roughly half the toll inflicted on the city from the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, pandemic, which killed nearly 300 people in the early 2000s.

    The heavier restrictions also come as neighboring city Macau reported the first imported case since June.

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    Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR), is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. With over 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

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