World

HK lifts first neighbourhood lockdown, efficacy remains in dispute

HONG KONG Hong Kong lifted its first neighbourhood coronavirus lockdown yesterday after testing some 7,000 people and finding just a handful of cases as debate swirled over the efficacy of the move.

Over the weekend, the police sealed off Jordan, a poor and densely populated area of about 150 apartment blocks, where coronavirus clusters had sprung up in recent weeks.

Officials went door to door conducting mandatory tests and found 0.17 per cent of those tested had the virus.

Some community and business leaders were critical of how the lockdown was carried out. But officials defended the move as proportionate and said they would not rule out similar neighbourhood lockdowns.

Hong Kong has recorded just over 10,000 infections with some 170 deaths by imposing effective but economically punishing social distancing measures for much of last year.

In recent weeks, stubborn clusters have emerged in low-income neighbourhoods notorious for some of the world's most cramped housing.

Infectious disease expert David Hui, advising the government, defended the lockdown. But he urged the authorities to move more swiftly to stop people leaving ahead of any new order. Epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling at the University of Hong Kong said blocking off certain neighbourhoods would have a limited effect because the virus remains across the city.

"I'm not sure that locking down other small parts of the city would make a lot of difference in getting on top of the case numbers right now," he told RTHK yesterday. - AFP

WORLD