The Latest: Hong Kong ends lockdown in Kowloon neighborhood

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Northern Adivacate/NZME

Signs direct drivers waiting for a COVID-19 testing at a pop-up testing centre at Marsden Point, New Zealand, on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Health officials in New Zealand say genome tests indicate the country's most recent COVID-19 patient contracted the virus from another returning traveler just before leaving quarantine. (Tania Whyte/Northern Adivacate/NZME via AP)

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s government on Monday morning ended an unprecedented lockdown after testing thousands of residents living in an area that had reported an increasing number of coronavirus cases, authorities said.

The lockdown, which was implemented in the early hours of Saturday, covered 16 buildings in Kowloon’s Yau Tsim Mong district, known as a working-class neighborhood with many subdivided apartment units. During the lockdown, residents were not allowed to leave their premises until they had tested negative for the coronavirus.

The district has been at the center of a worsening coronavirus outbreak, with over 160 cases reported over the first three weeks in January. Higher concentrations of the COVID-19 virus were also found in sewage samples, prompting fears that the virus could be transmitted via poorly installed plumbing systems in subdivided units that lack ventilation.

The government said in a statement early Monday that about 7,000 people were tested for the coronavirus during the lockdown, with 13 positive infections found.

“The Government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life,” authorities said in the statement.

Health minister Sophia Chan said Sunday that the government would not rule out similar restrictions in the future if there is such a need.

As of Sunday, Hong Kong has reported 10,086 cases of the coronavirus, with 169 deaths recorded.