The Covid-19 cordon in Jordan has resulted in 13 positive cases being identified after around 7,000 residents were tested during a two-day lockdown.

The city’s first neighbourhood lockdown was lifted on Monday in densely-populated Jordan, known for its old and subdivided dwellings with often ageing and poor residents. Since the early hours of Saturday, the authorities had banned entry and exit from the area whilst residents underwent mandatory testing.

Photo: Ben MacLeod/HKFP.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said at a press briefing Sunday evening that the 13 individuals who tested positive, along with 20 of their close contacts, had been quarantined. “The positive rate is 0.17 per cent,” she said. “If there is such a need, obviously we do not rule out the possibility of any future operation like this.”

The Centre for Health Protection will run an analysis and decide whether a second round of tests will be needed.

Photo: Ben MacLeod/HKFP.

Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui said at the same briefing that residents who had tested negative were given wristbands to allow them to leave the area after 6pm Sunday – six hours ahead of the official time the cordon would be lifted.

The government had placed the area between Kansu Street, Battery Street, Nanking Street and Woosung Street under lockdown after the number of Covid-19 cases in the neighbourhood doubled and a large proportion of building sewage samples tested positive for the virus.

Photo: Ben MacLeod/HKFP.

The measure came after rumours of an impending lockdown were leaked to the press close to 15 hours earlier, during which individuals were seen leaving the area with luggage and home appliances.

Official confirmation only came at around 4 am on Saturday following a day of confusion and rumours.

Photo: Ben MacLeod/HKFP.

Over 3,000 households and 7,000 residents were approached and their personal data was recorded for contact tracing in the future, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung told a press briefing held near the zone on Sunday afternoon: “Our goal is to complete all tests by midnight January 25, so citizens could head to work by 6am tomorrow morning,” he said.

Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

During the lockdown, thousands of government workers dressed in white protective suits marched between residential buildings in the zone, rolling out virus testing stations and distributing food supplies. They made at least two sweeps in every building, knocking on each apartment door to ensure that all residents were taken to mobile stations for virus tests.

Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

Responding to a question about how the government could trace and test residents who left the area prior to the lockdown, Cheung said that – after comparing population numbers with census data from a few years ago – the government believed that the number of individuals missed by the sweep would be small.

“The government reminds everyone who visited the restricted zone for two hours or more in the last 14 days, but who were not in the area when it became restricted, to get tested for the virus, as is required by law,” said Cheung. Individuals who do not comply with the order could be fined up to HK$25,000 and face up to six months of imprisonment.

Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

Of the 3,650 residences approached, 470 did not open the door.

Food packs

Residents were given food packs, but several subdivided flat and hotel residents in the zone told the press that they had no facilities for cooking or opening cans. One Muslim resident told RTHK that the authorities had failed to provide Halal food.

Reporters staying in the zone were ordered to remain inside their hotel, but government-hired camera operators while allowed to film on the street, Apple Daily reported.

Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

There were also concerns over waste as – by the end of the weekend – trash and used protective gowns were seen discarded next to bins on the street. The government said, however, that the area was deep cleaned overnight.

See also: HKFP Lens: Inside Hong Kong’s first Covid-19 lockdown zone

Meanwhile, a business owner said they were barred from entering the area to feed their cats. One of the two felines was taken out with the help of firefighters and a district councillor, Citizen News reported.

Business owners who suffered losses as a result of the lockdown will not be compensated, Cheung said. He also urged employers to “be understanding and forgiving of their employees affected by the situation, and refrain from deducting their salaries or days off,” if they were unable to go to work due to the lockdown.

“The Labour Department will be willing to assist if certain individuals encounter problems on this.”

Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

At a press briefing on Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam rejected the idea that the government had imposed a “lockdown,” as restrictions on movement were conditional to whether residents had tested negative for the virus.

She said that Friday’s media leaks were due to about 3,000 government workers being mobilised and hawkers being told to move on. The reports prompted some to leave the zone ahead of the governments’ action. However, the government was acting “as humanely as possible,” and drawing lessons from the weekend’s action, she said. In the future, they will only announce lockdowns when they are set to happen, Lam added.

Hong Kong has recorded 10,086 Covid-19 cases thus far and 169 deaths.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.