Residents from three housing estate have been given compulsory test orders as Hong Kong recorded 112 coronavirus cases on Thursday – 102 of which were locally transmitted cases, with 34 of those having unknown sources.

People living in Flat D of Block 6 in Richland Gardens had to be evacuated and sent to quarantine centres after the building reported at least seven confirmed cases of Covid-19. The police sent out negotiators to speak to residents who were refusing to leave.

Photo: GovHK.

The block had to be evacuated because of a piping design similar to that of the Amoy Gardens, making it a possible transmission risk according to leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung after he visited the premises on Thursday.

In 2003, more than 300 people were infected at Amoy Gardens in Jordan Valley with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) due to a suspected fault in the plumbing system.

Residents and visitors of Block 8 of Kwai Shing West Estate in Kwai Fong, and Kam Wai House in Ma on Shan were also ordered to undergo testing on – or before – next Monday.

People who went to the YATA store in Sha Tin, or the building sites of the Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin Tunnel were also given compulsory test orders.

Restriction-testing declaration

The government has also announced the details of its new legal amendment which give the authorities power to order a partial lockdown.

Photo: Kaiser/HKFP.

A “restriction-testing declaration” would be made when a dwelling records a considerable number of Covid-19 cases, and when there is a high infection risk.

Under the declaration, relevant persons would be required to stay on the premises until everyone is tested. They may also be transferred to a designated location to wait for test results or sent to quarantine centres if there is suspicion on environmental contamination.

The declaration could last for a maximum of seven days. People who breach the declaration may be fined HK$25,000 and imprisoned for six months.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan (left) and Dr Chui Tak-yi. File photo: GovHK.

When asked why a declaration was not made for Richland Gardens, Chuang Shuk-kwan – head of Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch – said that it may not be safe to put residents on lockdown: “We wish to test all residents first to assess the situation… We will protect the residents of that building first rather than lock them down… because we’re not sure whether there are other environmental issues in that building – so it might not be safe to lock them down in one place,” said Chuang during the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi also said that it would be difficult to set a single standard in requesting compulsory testing: “The application of the compulsory testing order can be quite different – some of them are related to premises, some of them are linked to activities, and some are based on workplaces, making it difficult to have a single standard,” said Chui. “We can’t have a rigid formula in deciding when to order compulsory testing.”

Tightened social-distancing measures

Tightened social-distancing measures kicked in on Thursday, with gyms, beauty parlours, and massage parlours closed, and dine-in services in restaurants halted from 6pm.

Penalties are to be increased to HK$5,000 from Friday onwards for violations of social distancing rules, along with violations of a compulsory quarantine or testing order, and the mandatory mask-wearing orders.

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Candice Chau

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.