The government's first neighbourhood lockdown measure for mandatory testing has drawn to an end. It has met with mixed responses from different sides. While some say it troubled people, wasted resources and was of poor cost effectiveness, there are also experts who maintain that locking down a district for compulsory testing is necessary and worthy. As residents and businesses inside the cordoned-off zone were affected seriously, grumbles and complaints were unavoidable. It was also inevitable that there was room for improvement as the government tried its hand at a new action. Overall, the government's handling of the lockdown can be considered as passing — the mandatory testing was completed within two days without much chaos. As to whether the effectiveness was high or low, it is not appropriate to consider the question simply by referring to the single figure of the test positivity rate. One should also bear in mind that ''an apple cannot be directly compared to an orange.'' In the battle against the pandemic, measures should be taken in line with the actual circumstances of the matter. All depends on the development of the outbreak and the battleground environment on the spot. There is not a panacea that works in all situations or a necessity to rule out any options flatly. Locking down a neighbourhood for mandatory testing is a valuable option that should not be seen through politically-coloured glasses. The authorities should take their lessons from the lockdown and formulate a set of reasonable and objective criteria for future reference regarding when to conduct compulsory testing and when to impose a lockdown.
The government has deployed 3,000 staff to cordon off the ''restricted zone'' in Yau Ma Tei and Jordan for about two days. More than 7,000 people have undergone mandatory testing during the action and 13 positive cases have been identified. An objective review of the success and failure of the lockdown has to consider questions of many aspects, including the target and rationality of the action, the constraints in reality, the smoothness of measure execution, the pandemic control efficacy in substance, as well as the extent of impact on the residents and businesses.
Even if they had tested negative at one previous moment, there was no guarantee that they would not be infected with the virus by accident the next moment. What is more, people could enter the neighbourhood as usual again after the lockdown had been lifted. In other words, locking down a district for compulsory testing cannot guarantee achieving ''zero caseload in the district''. The biggest effect of the action is to identify as many asymptomatic patients as possible. According to the authorities, there are three main considerations behind the imposing of the lockdown. Aside from operational feasibility in practice and the numerous cases of recently confirmed infections in the district, the decision was also prompted by the authorities' findings in the middle of this month that 90% of coronavirus-contaminated building sewage samples came from the restricted area.
Sewage testing has been introduced by the authorities in recent months as a tool for tracing the virus. Previous operations have shown that it is an effective way to locate asymptomatic patients. The high number of confirmed infections and positively tested sewage samples in the restricted area is absolutely unusual. There are a large number of ''triply-inadequate'' buildings in the neighbourhood. The condition for pandemic control is also not at a level comparable to common public housing estates or private estates. There is rationality in the authorities' action of imposing lockdown for compulsory testing.
Many residents in the area had already undergone testing before the lockdown for mandatory testing and more than a hundred confirmed infections were identified during that time. To a certain extent, the lockdown measure was a second round to find out those who had slipped through the net. Still, a positivity rate of 0.17% was reported after the lockdown. This is exactly a proof of the transmission risk of the virus.