Hong Kong’s leader has vowed that future Covid-19 lockdowns will retain the element of surprise and operate on a smaller scale than the one in Yau Tsim Mong district, which she hailed as a success despite news of the screening exercise leaking, allowing some residents to flee beforehand.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor on Tuesday (Jan 26) revealed a new strategy for imposing a series of localised and shorter “ambush-style” lockdowns in coronavirus-stricken parts of the city.
She praised the 44-hour mandatory-testing exercise in Jordan which ended early on Monday (Jan 25), but said improvements for future operations could be made in relation to their scope, duration and secrecy.
Pointing to Hong Kong’s population density, she said it had been very difficult for authorities to conduct coronavirus testing with high levels of efficiency, given that thousands of residents lived in some 150 multi-storey buildings within a tiny area.
“So the next thing we need to consider for the next operation is whether we should be more focused,” she said ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.
“We should do smaller-scale, restriction testing operations, but we could do more at the same time.”
Describing future operations as “ambush style”, she said no prior notice would be made and they could target just one street or a few neighbouring buildings at a time.
Lam also pledged to review the weekend’s screening exercise to see if the length of time that residents were confined could be reduced.
Some health experts and critics had earlier questioned the effectiveness of the unprecedented lockdown in Yau Tsim Mong, where only 13 coronavirus infections were detected among the more than 7,000 residents tested, or a 0.17 per cent positive rate.
The city leader responded by saying the operation had been proven to be an effective tool and one her administration would deploy again.
She revealed that the personal details of about 200 residents who had not undergone mandatory testing during the operation had been handed to the Centre for Health Protection.
Lam noted the city’s lockdown operation was conducted under a very “inefficient or insufficient” framework, as the government did not possess the data of residents in each area, unlike the system in mainland China.
Officials’ only available strategy, she said, was to return without notice to buildings and check everyone as they left for proof of a negative Covid-19 test result. Those without the certification would have their personal details taken down for follow-up and possible punishment via fixed penalty tickets.
“But I really hope we do not have to talk about enforcement. This is public health,” she said.
Lam also revealed that the government had already located several areas that would need mandatory testing, with details to be announced soon.
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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.