Lam says the government cannot underestimate any source of infection and that the testing is “ reassuring ” for residents.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hailed the sudden and unexpected lockdown of coronavirus testing of a number of buildings in a working-class area of the city as a success after a number of cases in the region had raised concerns about a larger outbreak of COVID-19.
About 20 buildings in the Yau Ma Tei district were cordoned off overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday and around 330 tests were carried out, the Hong Kong government said. Only one case was found.
Residents were not notified of the plan.
“We cannot underestimate any source of infection, and of course the residents of the ‘restricted area’ have been reassured,” Lam, the chief executive of the territory, wrote on her Facebook page.
She noted that the process “only lasted 11 hours” and ended at 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday (10 p.m. GMT Tuesday).
Hong Kong was one of the first places affected by COVID-19 after mainland China, but has managed to control the disease through social distancing measures, as well as strict border controls and hotel quarantines for travelers on arrival.
The territory has confirmed 10,223 cases and 173 deaths. Current social distancing measures will remain in effect until February 3.
In recent weeks, clusters of cases have emerged in low-income neighborhoods, including areas with cramped, subdivided apartments that reveal the steep inequalities beneath Hong Kong’s seemingly wealthy facade.
The average apartment in Hong Kong is around 500 square feet (46 square meters) and sells for around 7 million Hong Kong dollars ($ 900,000). Rents are also beyond the reach of many ordinary workers.
Residents of Yau Ma Tei had to show an SMS message confirming a negative test and wear a bracelet before being allowed to leave by officials stationed at the entrance to the affected buildings on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported. The cleaners were cleaning the roads, he added.
Over the weekend, authorities cordoned off part of Jordan, another area of the working class, although the media had learned of the plan the day before.
On his Facebook page, Lam said the local government was looking to fine-tune its anti-epidemic measures with the aim of reducing new cases to zero. Hong Kong has also tested sewage as a way to assess COVID infections in a given area.