The Hong Kong government is considering imposing its first coronavirus lockdown on thousands of people in densely populated Yau Ma Tei and Jordan, media reports said Friday, as the two districts in Kowloon struggle to curb the spread of the virus despite mandatory testing orders.

Sources told local media that authorities may seal off parts of the two districts over the weekend. Residents would have to stay home for at least three days unless they can show a negative test result.

The government has reportedly not mapped out the lockdown zone, but some reports said it would cover buildings whose residents were designated earlier to undergo compulsory testing.

New Reclamation Street Wet Market. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

HKFP has reached out to the Food and Health Bureau for confirmation.

As of Thursday, Hong Kong had recorded 9,867 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 167 deaths. The Yau Tsim Mong district, which includes Yau Ma Tei and Jordan and has many subdivided apartments in older blocks, has been hard hit by the current fourth wave of infections in the city.

Yau Tsim Mong District Council vice-chairman Andy Yu told HKFP that district councillors were not told about the reported measure. He said they raised questions about it with a district officer from the Home Affairs Department at a meeting on Thursday, but received no direct response.

“Because the lockdown area is still unknown, residents are panicking. Some are planning to leave the district, while others are worried about how to make a living [during the lockdown period],” Yu said.

A vehicle from the Department of Health unloaded containers with biohazard warnings in Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP

The Civic Party politician questioned the feasibility of locking down buildings in the area, as many are “three-nil buildings” – no owners’ corporations, no residents’ organisations and no property management companies. He said authorities may have difficulty gathering information on residents and ensuring that they follow the lockdown orders.

He also noted that positive test samples had been collected from the sewage systems of several buildings in the area. “Shouldn’t you be evacuating residents from those buildings? It is worse if you try to restrict people in those buildings.”

Another district councillor, Frank Ho, said he had received many enquiries from confused residents.

“I think the government must think of a comprehensive way to communicate the lockdown policy to the elderly and ethnic minorities in the community,” he told HKFP.

A truck parked in Yau Ma Tei for citizens to register for compulsory testing. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and member of the government’s Covid-19 advisory panel, told HKFP he had last week proposed a lockdown to the government. Officials were hesitant at the time, citing concerns that plumbing systems in buildings with subdivided flats might already have been contaminated, he said.

“The density of the neighbourhood is so high, it would be hard to break the infection chain without a lockdown,” Hui said. A lockdown through the weekend seems reasonable, he added, “although we also proposed running a second round of virus tests next week.”

Additional reporting: Selina Cheng.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.