Hong Kong authorities sealed off a residential block in Yau Ma Tei between Pitt Street and Tung On Street on Tuesday evening to conduct Covid-19 tests. It is the second time such measures were imposed within a week in the district, although no notice was given during Tuesday’s operation.

Yau ma tei 2nd lockdown covid
Police cordoned Pitt Street. Photo: Stand News screenshot.

At 7pm, without prior announcement, police cordoned off number 9 to 27 on Pitt Street and number 3, Tung On Street. The area covers 12 buildings, Apple Daily reported.

The sudden move came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam told the press during a morning press briefing that future lockdowns would be imposed as unannounced, “raids” to prevent residents from fleeing the area beforehand. Lam also said they would cover a smaller area in less time, in order to minimise inconvenience caused and the amount of personnel to deploy.

“For an operation like this, of course we would like to keep it strictly confidential until the operation commences… we will have to decide how to ensure better confidentially,” Lam said.

Yau ma tei 2nd lockdown covid
Police arraved at 7pm. Photo: Stand News.

A similar cordon had just been lifted on Monday midnight after a neighbourhood of 150 buildings in Jordan was locked down. Over 7,000 residents were tested for the virus and 13 tested positive. However, some residents were spotted leaving the area when rumours circulated in the afternoon before the measure was imposed. 470 households remained unreachable when government workers visited.

New lockdown

On Tuesday, a government spokesperson made an official announcement at 7pm, stating that part of the area was under a mandatory order requiring residents to test for the virus. It came after three of the buildings concerned recorded over 40 Covid-19 cases between January 11 and 25.

Some residents arrived after the area was cordoned, Stand News reported, but were allowed to enter one by one under liaison with the police.

yau ma tei second lockdown
Police cordoned Pitt Street. Photo: Stand News screenshot.

“The government will set up temporary test stations in the ‘restricted area’ and request citizens to get tested before midnight. A PCR test will be arranged for these individuals and professionals will take their throat and nose samples,” the statement read. “We understand this arrangement will cause inconvenience. The government has arranged this in the evening, when most citizens have finished work, and will run tests with all individuals in the restricted zone as soon as possible.”

Hong Kong has recorded 10,223 coronavirus cases thus far and 172 deaths.

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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.