Hong Kong’s government now has the power to order partial lockdowns in Covid-hit locations until mass tests can be conducted there as the number of new infections in the city keeps rising, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan announced on Tuesday.

The government also plans to ask people who complete a 14-day quarantine period to be tested again five or six days afterwards.

Coronavirus virus covid-19
File photo: GovHK.

The city recorded 100 new cases on Tuesday including 95 of local origin. The infection source in 27 of the local cases was unknown.

Tougher social-distancing rules were announced earlier Tuesday, with restaurants closing for dine-in customers at 6 pm from Thursday for two weeks. Gyms, beauty parlours and massage parlours will also have to shut down for the same period.

The government will reduce the number of civil servants coming in to work and Chief Executive Carrie Lam urged private companies to let their employees work remotely.

Chan, announcing the partial lockdown plan, said the Executive Council had agreed a legal framework that would allow the government to impose a stay-at-home order on certain groups.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

If a district or other location were deemed to have a high infection risk, such as recording multiple cases, or for purposes of limiting the pandemic, residents must undergo testing and stay home until they get the result.

If the lockdown lasted for more than 12 hours, basic supplies would be provided, Chan added. The order would last no longer than seven days and would expire after every person in the affected location had been tested and received the results.

Chan said exemptions may be granted for people with special circumstances, such as those with urgent medical needs, but they must also follow relevant disease prevention measures.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.