The Hong Kong authorities said on Saturday that they had locked down part of a densely packed neighborhood and started to test everyone there, one of the most dramatic measures the Chinese territory has taken since the coronavirus surfaced there last winter.
The local government said on Saturday that it had restricted access to some parts of the Jordan district and that people there would be prevented from leaving until they had been tested, the first such lockdown in Hong Kong. Battalions of police officers were seen guarding the perimeter as health workers in head-to-toe protective gear walked inside.
About 200 buildings in the Jordan area were affected, and more than 1,700 police and other officers were expected to be deployed, The South China Morning Post reported. Jordan — which includes a mix of office buildings, residential towers and dilapidated walk-ups — is one of Hong Kong’s most crowded districts.
Officials said that 162 confirmed coronavirus cases had been recorded across 56 buildings in Jordan in the first 20 days of January.
The government plans to finish testing residents in the restricted area within 48 hours, in time for residents to get to work on Monday morning. In a statement, it described the measures as an attempt to “completely cut the local transmission chains and ease residents’ worries and fear.”
During much of the pandemic, the daily caseload in Hong Kong, a financial hub of 7.5 million people, has been relatively low compared with other cities its size. Even now, it has recorded fewer than 10,000 total coronavirus cases, along with 168 deaths.
But new infections in recent months have prompted the government to revert to its harshest social-distancing measures and to require mandatory testing in some areas, including Jordan. As of Saturday, Hong Kong was averaging 55 daily cases over the past week.