Hong Kong has apparently ushered in another new normal, with residents in virus-hit areas being abruptly confined for compulsory Covid-19 tests. Ambush-style lockdowns are the centre of the latest government strategy to combat a fourth wave of the outbreak across the city. Officials are adamant that such “surprise, quick and targeted” operations will achieve “neighbourhood zero infections”. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen, but there is room for further improvement in such tactics. The most recent operations at Yau Ma Tei and North Point were on a smaller scale and carried out quicker than the up to 48 hours it took at Jordan last weekend, causing residents and businesses less inconvenience. However, people are understandably upset when daily routines are suddenly disrupted, and the lack of advance warning and clear selection criteria have left many wondering whether they will be among the next targets. With no fewer than three snap confinements in six days, the latest in North Point on Thursday was relatively smooth. But details of the operation, which began at 7pm, were only released 16 minutes later in Chinese and at 10.28pm in English. Many residents only realised what was going on upon returning home from work to see police directing crowds for registration and testing inside the cordoned off area. Fifteen people were fined HK$5,000 (US$645) each for not taking the mandatory tests, among them seven who said they were merely awaiting further instructions while resting overnight inside a restaurant at which they worked. In the light of complaints it would appear better communication is needed to avoid any further misunderstandings. Meanwhile, resistance remains an issue, with 190 households, or 30 per cent of those targeted, unable to be reached during the exercise. Authorities have pledged to follow up the cases. Separately, 14 people were fined for defying compulsory test requirements in a surprise inspection at six buildings in Sham Shui Po. Stronger enforcement is needed. Hong Kong Covid-19 lockdown eased for workers as testing reveals no new cases The operations, officials said, were successful and would help achieve the target of zero infections. But there continues to be concern over their cost-effectiveness, especially when only a single positive case was found in the most recent exercises. The lack of infections at the North Point site was probably a result of the affected blocks being subject to evacuation and mandatory testing before. Fluctuating daily infections, with 50 confirmed cases on Friday, means more areas will face restrictions. Ultimately, the effectiveness of lockdowns with Hong Kong characteristics will be judged by whether zero infections can be achieved. Meanwhile, disruption to people’s lives should be kept to a minimum.