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Hong Kong Imposes COVID Lockdown in Densely Populated District

By VOA News January 23, 2021

The local government in Hong Kong said Saturday that it had locked down one of the territory's most heavily populated areas to complete mandatory COVID-19 testing of its entire population.

Hong Kong's Special Administrative Region government said the lockdown was imposed in parts of the Jordan District to test nearly 10,000 residents within 48 hours, paving the way for residents to go to their jobs on Monday morning.

Authorities said 3,000 government workers had been deployed to the district, where officials said 162 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed in the first 20 days of the new year.

Authorities also locked down Temple Street, one of Hong Kong's busiest night markets.

The shutdown came as Hong Kong grappled with its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in two months, and as infections worldwide approached 100 million cases.

As of Saturday afternoon, there were 98.5 million COVID-19 cases and 2.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

"For the moment, the virus still has its hand in the game, but we still have our two best players: vaccination and spring," Yves Van Laethem, a Belgian health ministry spokesman, said about COVID in his country.

Van Laethem said he hoped spring's warmer weather would help alleviate the recent uptick in Belgian hospital admissions.

has had nearly 690,000 COVID-19 cases, and more than 20,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

German health officials said Friday that although the country had surpassed 50,000 deaths, its infection rate was slowing.

'Slightly positive trend'

At a news conference in Berlin, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said he saw a "slightly positive trend" in the numbers and credited the drop to a partial lockdown introduced in November and since tightened.

Also Friday, European countries were dealt another blow when AstraZeneca announced that initial deliveries of its vaccine to the region would not meet its projected targets.

A company statement said, "Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain." The statement did not give further details.

Europe is struggling to roll out vaccines to its residents after vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced a temporary shortfall in the supply of their vaccine in order to help a manufacturing site in Belgium boost output.

In the United States, President Joe Biden signed executive orders aimed at providing financial and food security to families affected by the pandemic.

The orders boosted food assistance, protected unemployment benefits for job seekers and laid the groundwork for federal employees and contractors to get a $15 minimum wage.

"We have to act now," Biden said Friday in remarks at the White House before he signed the orders.

Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief plan to Congress to help Americans suffering from the effects of the coronavirus, but it is not clear if the bill has enough support from lawmakers to pass. Congress passed a $900 billion relief bill in December and some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether there is a need for another large relief bill.

Walmart move

Also Friday, U.S. retailer Walmart said it was preparing to expand its vaccination program to seven more states, using its network of pharmacies.

The world's largest retailer said it would start providing inoculations in Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas, as well as in Chicago and Puerto Rico. The company is already providing vaccines to health care workers in New Mexico and Arkansas.

Vaccination efforts in the United States have run into numerous difficulties, including logistical hurdles, bureaucratic failures and a basic shortage of vaccines, which have led to residents across the U.S. seeing their vaccine appointments canceled.

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