More lockdowns loom despite single case in Yau Ma Tei

Top News | Jane Cheung 28 Jan 2021

Only one infection was picked up among 330 residents tested in a sudden overnight lockdown of three Yau Ma Tei buildings.

But Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung defended the 11-hour operation that ended at 6am yesterday, saying the positive rate was 0.3 percent - compared to the 0.17 percent for the 13 cases found among 7,000 residents in a larger lockdown in Jordan at the weekend.

He warned of more "surprise, quick and targeted" lockdowns to "achieve zero cases."

Still, in the operation at 9-27 Pitt Street and Shun Fung Building at 3 Tung On Street beginning at 7pm on Tuesday, officers knocked on the doors of 306 households but 93 did not answer. Home affairs officers were following up.

Despite unsealing the area at 6am yesterday, watchers remained at exits of the three buildings to check residents' negative test results.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was "delighted" the operation ended on time and thanked residents for cooperating.

But Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Andy Yu Tak-po slammed authorities for "pranking" residents and stall operators as there was no prior notice and then confusing messages on test arrangements.

"The most ridiculous thing was that officers asked residents who were not home by 7pm to provide proof of address before letting them through the cordon line," he said. "A normal person does not take that wherever they go."

Another district councillor, Lee Wai-fung, noted that hundreds of residents lined up on the street for tests and white bracelets after obtaining negative results. He asked if such an environment was healthy.

Residents at 15-27 Pitt Street said they had been subjected to two rounds of mandatory tests before the lockdown, with the last one over the weekend. So they questioned the necessity of being tested again. "I go out early every morning for exercise and yam cha," said one. "The pandemic may be a natural disaster, but these measures were man-made disruptions to my life."

A woman said she backed multiple tests, saying: "It's harmful to me if many silent cases wander around my neighborhood."

An operator of a laundry in the lockdown area said the fast action meant machines were stopped suddenly.

"Clothes were kept in the washing machines overnight and had to be rewashed," she said. "Some customers could not collect laundry as scheduled."

The lockdown area was one block from Yau Ma Tei fruit market, and trucks had to make detours to reach the market.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said outbreaks in the lockdown area were rooted in construction site clusters. The first cases surfaced last week and then spread in the vicinity, so authorities acted too late.

He also called for authorities to study all 5,300 so-called "three-nil" buildings - no owners' corporation, residents' organization or property management firm - to sort out those with cases and mandate immediate tests.

"I believe that is a much more effective way than testing sewage samples two to three weeks after outbreaks," he said.

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