Surprise checkpoint at COVID-19-hit HK housing block uncovers 76 testing violators

Rachel Yeo, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 26 2020 01:01 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2020 01:02 PM

Surprise checkpoint at COVID-19-hit HK housing block uncovers 76 testing violators 1
People wait outside a COVID testing center in Hong Kong on Sunday. A spike in COVID-19 cases prompted tighter restrictions and forced a planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore to be scrapped a day before its launch on November 21. Peter Parks, AFP/File

Some 76 residents violated the Hong Kong government’s mandatory Covid-19 testing order for a virus-hit building at a Sha Tin housing estate, after authorities completed their first-ever surprise checkpoint exercise to enforce compulsory screening.

Officials revealed the figure on Friday, after a partial lockdown at the Ming Yan Lau block of Jat Min Chuen estate. From 6am to midnight on Thursday, authorities set up a temporary cordon and checked more than 1,900 residents.

Before they could enter or leave their building, residents had to provide a text message or other relevant proof showing the result of a Covid-19 test they were ordered to take between December 17 and 21.

Door-to-door inspections were also conducted to check whether residents had taken the tests.

Non-compliant residents received a warning and testing was arranged for them. The Department of Health would also follow up on 140 residents who could not have their test results verified.

The operational arrangements left many of the locals frustrated.

“Some residents were complaining that they didn’t receive any messages for deep-throat saliva tests, but those who took the nose swab tests got their text messages,” said a 39-year-old woman surnamed Ng.

“There were only about a dozen government staff on duty, so it got very messy later when people went out for work.”
Another woman, surnamed Chan, 66, agreed the government arrangements were chaotic but also criticised residents who did not go for tests.

“We had two rounds of compulsory testing but these residents didn’t take them,” she said. “It’s also their responsibility for other people’s safety.”

Residents who cannot provide the required proof are considered to have breached the compulsory testing notice, and face a maximum HK$5,000 fine and another compulsory testing order. Those who continue to defy the orders may also be slapped with a HK$25,000 fine and six months’ jail.

Five Covid-19 cases were previously linked to the estate, prompting authorities to issue a compulsory quarantine order to residents living on the 32nd floor of the block on December 16.

Aside from Ming Yan Lau, nine other housing estates were issued compulsory testing orders, including Block 6 of Richland Gardens in Kowloon Bay, Fu Shan Estate in Diamond Hill and Lotus Tower in Kwun Tong Garden Estate.
 

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