Jordan partially placed under 48-hour lockdown

Saturday, January 23, 2021

More than ten thousand residents in Jordan have been confined for 48 hours as a large area was locked down in a first-ever attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the city. 

At 4am this morning, the government announced the restriction, saying it would seal off about 200 buildings that run from Woosung Street in the east, Nanking Street in the south, Battery Street in the west, to Kansu Street in the north.

Under the arrangement, people must stay at home and undergo mandatory testing. No one is allowed to leave until everyone in the designated area is tested with confirmed results.

The lockdown, aimed at achieving zero cases in the area, is set to be completed within 48 hours so that residents could be allowed to return to work from around 6am on Monday. 

The affected area, packed with aging buildings and subdivided flats, was nearly 500,000 sq ft and overlaps a mandatory testing zone set earlier this week.

During the early hours today, police cordoned off the “restricted” area which would be partially used to set up 51 temporary sampling stations. 

People will be grouped to undergo nucleic acid testing, where throat and nasal cavity swabs will be collected.

Residents with negative test results would be allowed to leave their buildings only after the restrictions are revoked. Even those testing negative would be urged to stay home as much as possible. 

By 7am, officers clad in protective gear had set up counters for registration at the checkpoints. 

Officers from other disciplined services – customs, fire services, correctional services, and immigration – were expected to begin door-to-door inspections with health officials. 

People started queuing up for the test this morning, shortly after health officials set up the mobile testing booths.

Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the measure was necessary after 162 confirmed cases were found in 56 housing blocks in Yau Tsim Mong district between January 1 and January 20. 

She said authorities would not rule out second mandatory testing in the area, as some patients might not be identified in these two days given the virus incubation period.   

But authorities still had to examine factors such as the number of confirmed cases and virus sampling of sewage, and a lockdown might not be necessary by the time. 

Chan added the lockdown also mandates those who had been staying for more than two hours in the “restricted area” in the past 14 days to take compulsory testing before midnight on Saturday, even if they are not in the lockdown area after the measure takes effect. 

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said previous sewage surveillance with the University of Hong Kong showed that around 90 percent of the buildings in the targeted area have tested positive. 

Asked why the measure took effect at 4am, secretary of Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai the short notice period was to avoid residents from leaving the area, and stressed citizens who had been to the area should take the test.

But news of the measure leaked ahead of the announcement yesterday, giving time for some residents to leave the area in advance. 

Around 3,000 staffers spanning across multiple departments had been deployed in this lockdown, which is expected to include more than 1,700 police and other disciplined services officers, Tsui said. 

He added many of the buildings in the area are "three-nil" - without owners' corporations, residents' organizations or property management companies – and had a poor hygiene condition, officials would disinfect the area thoroughly after the lockdown. 

Officials from the Home Affairs Department would be delivering food for care home residents in the area, while staffers who speak languages such as Nepalese would be sent to the area where many ethnic minorities live. 

In addition, the Home Affairs Department has set up hotlines 2399 6949 and 2835 1473, and also set up hotlines 3755 6816 specifically for ethnic minorities.