New infections in recent months and a contagious new variant threatening to accelerate the pandemic have prompted some governments to revert to their harshest social-distancing measures.
In Hong Kong, the authorities said on Saturday that they had locked down part of a densely packed neighborhood and started to test everyone there, one of the most drastic measures that the Chinese territory has taken since the coronavirus surfaced there last winter.
The local government said on Saturday that it had restricted access to some parts of the Jordan District, one of Hong Kong’s most crowded, and that people there would be prevented from leaving until they had been tested, the first such lockdown in the territory. Battalions of police officers were seen guarding the area’s perimeter as health workers in head-to-toe protective gear walked inside.
About 200 buildings in the Jordan area were affected, and more than 1,700 police and other officers were expected to be deployed, The South China Morning Post reported.
Officials said that 162 confirmed coronavirus cases had been recorded across 56 buildings in Jordan in the first 20 days of January.
The government plans to finish testing residents in the restricted area within 48 hours, in time for residents to go to work on Monday morning.
As of Saturday, Hong Kong was averaging 73 daily cases over the past week, according to a New York Times database.
In Madrid, restaurants and bars will need to close early on Monday, as part of a series of new lockdown restrictions announced by the authorities in Spain’s capital region.
The new rules comes only days after Isabel Ayuso, the leader of the Madrid region, pledged instead to avoid any further clampdown on restaurants, saying that “if you want to ruin hostelry, don’t count on me.”
Instead, restaurants will need to close at 9 p.m. — effectively stopping them from serving at traditional Spanish dinner hours — and also limit the number of people sharing a table to four, rather than six. Madrid’s nighttime curfew will also be moved forward to 10 p.m. from 11 p.m.
Madrid is joining other regions of Spain that have been tightening their lockdown since the start of the year, amid particular concerns about the spread of a new variant of Covid-19 first detected in Britain, called B.1.1.7.
But the central government has so far resisted calls from some regional politicians to return the country to a full lockdown, like that enforced in March when the coronavirus first inundated Spain. The average daily number of registered Covid-19 cases in Spain has doubled over the past two weeks, reaching past 35,000 on Friday.
Spain’s vaccine rollout has also been criticized by its residents, who are angry that politicians and well-connected individuals are skipping the line to get a vaccine, as delivery delays halt some vaccination efforts, according to The Associated Press.
One of those politicians includes Spain’s defense ministry chief of staff, who resigned on Saturday, a day after the ministry launched an investigation into whether he and other senior military officers had jumped the queue to get vaccinated early against Covid-19.
The resignation of Spain’s most senior general follows that of some other regional health officials, who got vaccinated even though priority access to vaccines should have been limited to frontline medical workers, like doctors and nurses.
The defense ministry said in a statement that Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya Vilalta had resigned “to preserve the image of the armed forces,” although he believed that he had acted in good faith and had “never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges.”