Thousands of Hong Kong residents have been locked down to contain the coronavirus

Hong Kong (AFP) – Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down on Saturday, in an unprecedented move to contain the city’s worsening outbreak, authorities said.

Hong Kong has been struggling to contain a new wave of coronavirus since November. More than 4,300 cases were recorded in the past two months, nearly 40% of the city total.

Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong’s Yao Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighborhood with old buildings and divided apartments – account for about half of the infections in the past week.

Sewage testing in the area has revealed more concentrated effects of the virus, raising concerns that poorly constructed plumbing systems and lack of ventilation in divided units may represent a potential pathway for the virus to spread.

Authorities said in a statement on Saturday that a district with 16 buildings in Yao Tsimong will be closed until all residents are tested. Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes until they receive their test results to prevent transmission.

“Persons subject to the compulsory test must remain at their workplaces until all persons identified in the area are tested and test results are often confirmed,” the government said in a statement.

Hong Kong has previously avoided lockdowns in the city during the pandemic, with Leader Carrie Lam stating in July of last year that the authorities would avoid taking such “extreme measures” unless they had another option.

The government said the restrictions, announced at 4 am in Hong Kong, are expected to end within 48 hours.

He appealed to employers to exercise discretion and avoid laying off the salaries of employees who have been affected by the restrictions and may not be able to go to work.

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Hong Kong had seen a total of 9,929 infections in the city, with 168 deaths recorded as of Friday.

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