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Jordan lockdown eased as 76 new infections reported

Posted on 24 January 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung leads inspection of lockdown area

Hong Kong authorities have let coronavirus-free residents go in and out of the lockdown area in Jordan after testing more than 7,000 people there, as health officials reported 76 new cases today, Jan 24. Four of them were Indonesian domestic helpers.

Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui said in a press briefing the lockdown declaration would be revoked this midnight to enable residents who tested negative would be able to resume their normal activities.

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“After 6pm today, that is now, we allow all those who have taken the test, as long as the results are negative, and for those who are wearing wristbands, these…residents can now go in and out of the restricted area via designated exits to minimize the impact,” he said.

Tsui said the government will seriously follow up and enhance the anti-epidemic campaign and officers will continue to work in the restricted area.

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He said those who were in the restricted area for two hours in the past 14 days, even though they were outside the zone when the lockdown was imposed at 4am on Saturday, must go for a test as soon as possible as a responsible individual.

He warned those who violate the restriction and mandatory testing declaration that they face a fine of $25,000 and six months in jail.

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The government imposed the 48-hour lockdown in an area with about 55 residential buildings in Jordan as it battled to control the spread of Covid-19 among its residents.

Secretary for Food and Health, Prof Sofia Chan, said that as of 3pm today, more than 7,000 residents had taken the compulsory test in 51 mobile testing stations. She said more than 80 persons were tested in door-to-door sorties in the restricted area.

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Chan said the tests in the restricted area accounted for 13 positive cases today, or 0.17% of the positive rate. She said four cases came from the same family and two came from another family. Seven other cases came from other households.

Preliminary positive patients were sent to public hospitals and contact tracing was under way, Chan said.

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Answering a reporter’s query, Chan said the lockdown showed that the government’s strategy of compulsory testing and testing within a small area with the restriction of movement was very effective in identifying, detecting and isolating the cases.

Chan did not rule imposing another lockdown where it is need in future, saying this measure, as well as the issuance of compulsory testing notice, are effective measures. 

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Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said in an earlier media briefing the 76 new patients included 23 from Yau Tsim Mong, 11 of whom were from the Jordan restricted zone.

The new cases brought Hong Kong’s total Covid-19 tally to 10,085, health officials said.

Four of these were imported cases, and they were all Indonesian female helpers, aged 23 to 34, one of whom arrived via Singapore on Jan 22. Three others flew in on Jan 10 and tested positive on their 12th day in quarantine.

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Of the new cases, 27 had unknown origin and 45 were linked to other cases, Chuang said.

Dr Linda Yu of the Hospital Authority said as of 9am today, public hospitals received 77 positive cases in the past 24 hours, and discharged a total of 9 034 patients with confirmed or probable infection. 

A total of 775 confirmed patients are still in 24 public hospitals and at the AsiaWorld community treatment facility. Among them, 35 are in critical condition, 35 in serious condition and the remaining 705 in stable condition.

Yu also announced the death of a 72-year-old male patient with chronic illness who was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital on Dec 24 last year after testing positive for Covid-19.

Police were highly visible in the lockdown area

Earlier today, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung inspected the restricted area in Jordan.

Briefing reporters afterwards, Cheung replied to a query that he was confident of lifting the restrictions by 6am tomorrow, based on the on testing of residents in the area.

“We have confidence that we should be able to do it (ending the lockdown) because we have already done screening for 7,000 people yesterday in terms of testing,” Cheung said. 

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HK’s total Covid-19 cases top 10k, one year after first case detected

Posted on 23 January 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Man from Wuhan who arrived Jan 22 last year was HK's first coronavirus case  

Exactly a year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in Hong Kong, the city’s tally from Covid-19 has gone past the 10,000 mark.

Health officials reported 81 new cases today, Jan 23, pushing the total count to 10,009. But only 731 infected patients are still being treated in 24 public hospitals and the community facility in AsiaWorld Expo.

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Hong Kong’s first case was recorded on this day last year, after a 39-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived via high-speed train from Wuhan and Shenzhen, tested positive a day after arrival.

Asked to assess the city’s response to the pandemic, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said it had been a difficult year for everyone.

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“The one-year battle has not been easy, not just for Hong Kong, but for the whole world, too,” she said. “We adopted a lot of unprecedented measures, everyone experienced unprecedented situations. No one would ever have expected flights to be halted and borders to be closed. We are all learning from the experience.”

Dr Chuang said people should continue paying attention to their health even after testing negative for Covid-19, and should immediately seek medical help if they experience symptoms.

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Speaking about the new surge in cases, she said the number will continue to rise because of enhanced testing, especially in parts of Kowloon where several outbreaks have been reported.

“We expect the daily number of cases to get more and more in the coming days because of the enhanced testing in the restricted area, and because there is still a significant silent transmission in the community,” she said.

Today's press briefing on Covid-19, exactly a year since HK's first case was reported

Of today’s infections, 78 were locally acquired, including 21 from virus-plagued Yau Tsim Mong district in Kowloon, and six from adjoining Sham Shui Po, parts of which have been put as designated areas for compulsory testing.

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An entire block of flats in Jordan, which is part of the Yau Tsim Mong district, was today put under the city’s first lockdown, and everyone there was told to undergo testing by midnight tonight, and remain at home until the results are known.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam the move was taken after 162 Covid-19 cases were found in the area, and 90% of sewage samples taken from there showed the presence of coronavirus.

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More than 70 preliminary positive cases were recorded today, so tomorrow’s tally is projected to be around the same number as today’s.

Of the three imported cases reported today, one involved a 65-year-old Indonesian worker who tested positive on her second test, while in hotel quarantine.

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The two others both flew in on Jan 21. One is a 37-year-old Filipina domestic worker who came aboard a Cebu Pacific flight from Manila, and the other is a 23-year-old male returnee from Switzerland who traveled on Qatar Airways.

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Lockdown of Jordan block to last 48 hours

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

Hundreds of people in full PPE can be seen in the blockaded area in Jordan (RTHK photo)

The Hong Kong government has imposed a 48-hour lockdown on a block with about 50 residential buildings in Jordan, in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus among people living there.

The unprecedented move, taken in line with chapter 599J of the Regulations on Disease Prevention and Control, was meant to compel all residents in the targeted area in Kowloon to submit to Covid-19 tests, with Saturday midnight as the target completion time.

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The area designated as ''restricted'' runs from Woosung Street in the east, Nanking Street in the south, Battery Street in the west, to Kansu Street in the north.

The lockdown took effect as health officials announced 81 new Covid-19 cases, 78 of them locally acquired. Of the local cases, 21 were linked to the Yau Tsim Mong district, and six to adjacent Sham Shui Po, all in Kowloon.

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Speaking to reporters after an inspection tour of the area Saturday afternoon, Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the action as being in the interest of public health.

The city’s top official said that for the first 20 days of this month, a total of 162 infections were recorded in the affected districts in Kowloon, where many of the buildings are old and poorly managed. Equally disturbing was that about 90% of more than 20 sewage samples from the area was found to have the virus.

CE Lam says 90% of sewage samples taken from the area had the virus

Responding to complaints about the lack of adequate notice to residents about the lockdown, Lam said her administration would learn from the experience so it would be better prepared if a similar situation occurs in future.

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But she said any public health measures need the full cooperation of citizens to be effective. For its part, the government is obliged to provide all necessary assistance to those affected.

“In this case, for example, we know that the residents being affected are not allowed to leave their homes for up to 48 hours. So what the government has done is we provide them with food packs, which we believe should be able to support them in the next two days,” she said.

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Contrary to earlier reports that residents who had tested negative for the virus would be allowed to leave, police who enforced the lockdown ordered everyone within the area to stay at home until all the test results have been confirmed.

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Anyone who has been in the restricted area for more than two hours in the past 14 days, was told to stay put and submit to compulsory testing by midnight tonight.

The order covered even reporters who were reportedly forced to stay overnight in a hotel when they were stopped from leaving after interviewing people in the area.

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One man who went into the restricted zone for a few hours had an altercation with the police when he was told he could not go out anymore.

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More Filipinas arrested in ATM-linked money laundering

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

A fellow Filipina helped the accused to open accounts with HSBC, then took their ATMs away

At least four Filipino domestic workers have been arrested in an ongoing Hong Kong police investigation into a money laundering operation in which illicit money transfers were made using the women’s ATM accounts, the Consulate said.

Consul General Raly Tejada confirmed on Thursday night there had been arrests and that the Consulate is helping them.

"Yes I can confirm that merong mga nakasuhan at tinutulungan ngayon ng Konsulado,” ConGen Tejada said in response to an enquiry. (I can confirm that some people have been arrested and they are now being helped by the Consulate).

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Consul Paulo Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section, said four Filipinas who were recently  had gone to the Consulate last weekend to seek assistance after they were released on bail.

He said the four claimed they were arrested after HSBC reported to the police that huge amounts of money were being moved in and out of their ATM-linked accounts in the bank.

Saret said the workers told the Consulate they had lost their ATM cards and were not aware these were later used to launder money obtained illegally. 

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Unknown to him, two of those involved in the illicit operation had told The SUN that  they were duped by a Filipina member of the syndicate into lending their ATM cards to the scammers in January last year.

“All four of them told us that they lost their ATM cards and found out only during their arrest that these were used in illegal transactions,” Saret said.

One of the two women, C.P., was arrested on Jan 15 and was released on bail by police but was fired by her employer the next day. Her friend, M.N., was dismissed by her employers on Wednesday night for getting into the mess.

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C.P. and M.N. said they were enticed by another friend in January  last year to respond to an advertisement on Facebook offering part-time jobs that could earn them thousands in just weeks.

A fellow Filipina who replied to their enquiry told them they needed to have ATM accounts for payment of their earnings. Initially they would be paid $500 each, but it turned out that was all they would get for the scam that cost them their jobs.

The ATMs were used to launder money by unknown people

When the woman learned they had no ATM accounts, she told the two to get in touch with another Filipina who would help open accounts at HSBC for them.

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M.N. said they were told that they needed to open an account with the bank to receive money.

When she asked if they could use the ATM to operate their account, the other Filipina reportedly said yes, “Oo, magagamit mo 24/7.” (Yes, you can use it 24/7).

M.N. said, “E di masaya ako dahil may ATM na ako, magkakapera pa ako.” (So, I was happy, because not only would I get an ATM, I would also earn money).

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So, later that same month, C.P., M.N. and a friend went to an HSBC branch in a place they said they could not remember and met the Filipina who was to assist them. She coached them on what to say to the teller.

Ganito ang gawin nyo ha. Ito answer nyo, sabihin nyo sa teller na kailangan makuha nyo rin ngayon ang ATM dahil gagamitin nyo bukas.” (This is what you’ll tell the teller. Tell her you have to get the ATM cards today because you’ll be needing them tomorrow.)

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But after the cards were issued the woman collected the ATMs as well as the PIN codes. She told them some businessmen needed to keep the cards for about a week and they would receive further payments in return.

The Filipina helpers claimed they were never given access to their bank accounts.

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More Covid-19 outbreaks in Yau Tsim Mong trigger partial lockdown, evacuation

Posted on 22 January 2021 No comments

By The SUN

Residents in flats C of Kensington Plaza in Jordan will be evacuated

People living in flats C at Kensington Plaza on Parkes Street, Jordan are expected to be evacuated shortly, after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the building.

At least 10 people in five different units of the housing block, all but one facing the same direction, have tested positive for the virus.

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There are also reports that authorities are planning to seal off 150 buildings in the Yau Tsim Mong (Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok) from midnight tonight, allowing only those who are able to show a negative test result for Covid-19 to leave.

The news came as 61 new Covid-19 cases were reported today, Jan 22, including 24 from Yau Tsim Mong. Of the new infections, 55 were locally acquired, and six were imported.

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More than 50 preliminary positive cases were also recorded.

The imported cases included three Indonesian domestic workers who just flew in from Jakarta, aged 35 to 47. A 31-year-old Filipina domestic worker who just arrived from Manila also tested positive.

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The two others were returning residents: a 24-year-old man who came from Switzerland, and a 32-year-old man from India.

Of the local infections, 26 had no known source.

Dr Yuen says leaking pipes must have caused the virus to spread in the Jordan block

Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-hung who inspected the building in Jordan late in the afternoon Friday said there was a chance leaking sewage pipes was transmitting the virus through the flats.

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Another possibility was the “chimney effect,” where contaminated air is sucked upwards, then blown into flats on higher floors.

Yuen, however, said there was no need to evacuate other buildings in the housing block as of now.

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Earlier, infectious disease expert Leung Chi-chiu urged the government to expand mandatory testing in Yau Ma Tei, but said it was pointless to impose a lockdown on residents until they test negative for the virus.

“There is no point in sealing off the designated area now, as most people there have been tested. So even if one or two (infections) were not detected, the risk of spreading to the whole of Hong Kong is low,” said Leung.

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But he said residents should be encouraged to get tested more than once, especially if they develop symptoms, and for the hygiene conditions in the area to be improved.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said at today’s press briefing on the coronavirus situation that more residential blocks in Yau Tsim Mong have been added to the compulsory testing list, after at least one confirmed case was reported from each of the buildings there.

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Mandatory testing was also ordered for residents of four residential blocks in Tseung Kwan O, Yuen Long and Chai Wan, where at least two unlinked cases have been reported in each building.

As at 9am today, 718 confirmed patients were being treated in 24 public hospitals and the treatment facility in AsiaWorld Expo. Among them, 34 are in critical condition, 30 are serious, and 654 patients are stable.

One patient passed away in the past 24 hours, raising the city’s death toll from Covid-19 in public hospitals to 164. The 66-year-old female patient was declared dead at 12.42pm today at Princess Margaret Hospital.

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