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COVID-19: Government declares lockdown in Hong Kong

COVID-19: Government declares lockdown in Hong Kong
A local resident is forbidden to leave his building by a civil servant in face mask and protective gown during a lockdown Saturday in Jordan, Hong Kong, China. Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Officials placed 10,000 residents under COVID-19 lockdown Saturday in a crowded district in Hong Kong.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsui Ying-wai said 3,000 civil servants were deployed in the Jordan area of the Yau Tsim Mong district of Hong Kong to test the 10,000 residents amid the lockdown. Officials sealed off about 200 buildings in the district from 4 a.m., the South China Morning Post reported.

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Some residents fled after news of the lockdown was leaked ahead of its implementation amid worries about food supply and missing work, according to the Hong Kong-based English language newspaper. Meanwhile, some others unwittingly outside the area were cut off from their families until ministers ordered frontline workers to allow them to reunite.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng said the lockdown was needed to curb the spread of COVID-19 after 162 cases were found in 56 housing blocks in the Jordan area since the beginning of this month, but admitted there was room for improvement.

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"We need to study seriously whether we should take action and make announcement earlier once the media has exposed the plan," Lam told the South China Morning Post. "If the residents knew the operation only lasted 48 hours and that the government would provide them food packs and a hotline, maybe they would be less anxious and would not have fled the area."

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Lam added the government aimed to finish testing and allow residents to return to work Monday.

Meanwhile, Beijing has begun mass COVID-19 testing after a countrywide surge. China, though, reported a slight decline Friday with 103 new COVID-19 cases, down from 144 new cases the prior day, Channel News Asia reported.

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China has reported 98,974 cases and 4,803 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins' global tracker.

Britain went into its strictest lockdown in December after a new, faster-spreading coronavirus variant was identified.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference Friday the lockdown would continue because of a new COVID-19 variant and infection rates. The news came after the government's New and Emergency Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group warning the new British COVID-19 variant may be 30% to 40% more deadly.

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"Currently, the rate of infection is forbiddingly high, and I think we have to be realistic about that," Johnson said at the press conference. "I think we will have to live with coronavirus in one way or another for a long while to come. I think it is an open question as to when and in what way we can start to relax any measures. Obviously, we want to do everything we can to open up but only safely, one cautiously."

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Britain has reported over 3.5 million cases and over 96,100 deaths since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the global tracker. One in 10 adults in the country has been vaccinated.

In Norway, health authorities have imposed the country's strictest coronavirus lockdown measures around the capital since the beginning of the pandemic to curb the spread of the British COVID-19 variant.

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The lockdown, which imposes a "duty to wear a face mask," in public areas when social distancing is not possible, includes 10 municipalities in Eastern Norway and will be imposed at least until Jan. 31, according to a government statement.

Under the lockdown, there will be shifts to remote learning for universities and upper secondary schools, along with allowing primary and lower secondary schools to close if infection rates rise.

Restaurants and bars will be closed except for takeout, shops will be closed, except for grocery shops. Places of worship will be closed except for burials and cremations. Fitness centers, libraries, museums, movie theaters and other culture entertainment, and recreational venues will also be closed. Residents are also advised not to have get togethers at home or travel unnecessarily, the statement said.

"This is a very serious situation, and we must do what we can to stop the outbreak," Health Minister Ben Hoie said in a statement . "If the virus mutation spreads in Oslo, it will be very difficult to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the country."

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Norway has reported 60,732 COVID-19 cases and 544 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the global tracker shows.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected over 98 million people and killed over 2 million.

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