When Shirley Leung, 60, woke up enclosed in Hong Kong’s first coronavirus lockdown, she surveyed the tiny room she shares with her adult son, which fits a single bed and cardboard boxes and plastic tubs for storing clothes.

She tried to ignore the smell of the ceiling and walls, which were blanketed with mold. She rationed out the fresh vegetables she had at home, dissatisfied with the canned foods and instant noodles the government had provided when it imposed the restrictions Saturday. She considered the cramped, interconnected nature of her apartment building.

"If one room is infected, then how is it possible for cases not to spread among subdivided flats?” Leung said in a telephone interview. "How can it be safe?”