Birthday party attended by top pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong becomes potential Covid cluster

·2-min read
File: Residents line up to receive Covid vaccines at a mobile vaccination station in Hong Kong (EPA)
File: Residents line up to receive Covid vaccines at a mobile vaccination station in Hong Kong (EPA)

Over two dozen pro-China Hong Kong lawmakers and officials were among the 170 guests who flouted government rules by attending a large birthday party held in the city this week, causing a major political uproar.

All the guests at the party have been ordered to isolate due to possible exposure to Covid-19.

The party was held on Monday to celebrate the 53rd birthday of Witman Hung, a local delegate to the National People’s Congress.

Health authorities have confirmed at least one Covid case and identified a second preliminary one linked to the party amid a spike in cases driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

Andrew Leung, president of the legislative council, said on Friday that 19 members of the 90-seat council attended Monday’s party.

Immigration chief Au Ka-wang and home affairs secretary Caspar Tsui were some of the top officials who were part of the gathering.

They have been ordered, along with other legislators, to spend up to 21 days at the city’s Penny’s Bay quarantine centre, South China Morning Post reported.

The government has been forcing an increasing number of travellers arriving in Hong Kong to spend as long as three weeks at the quarantine centre.

Health authorities on Friday confirmed that a 37-year-old woman who attended the party was the first one to be infected by the virus.

Lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu reportedly met top Beijing official Xia Baolong two days after attending the party.

The political scandal comes at a time when Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam imposed strict restrictions to curb the spread of disease.

Ms Lam said she was “disappointed” to hear about the event.

“We have been mounting an all-out effort in fighting the epidemic. As top government officials, there is all the more reason for us to set a good example and avoid attending private gatherings that may pose a major hazard,” she said on Thursday.

Hong Kong has tightened restrictions and banned incoming flights from eight countries, including the US and Britain for two weeks.

Indoor dining after 6pm along with swimming pools, sports centres, bars, clubs, museums and other venues have been banned for at least two weeks.

On 31 December, Hong Kong authorities announced they had identified the first case related to the Omicron variant.

Since then, they have been scrambling to track down and test hundreds of people who had been in contact with Covid patients.

“We’re yet to see a fifth wave yet, but we’re on the verge. We are worried there may be silent transmission chains in the community,” Ms Lam said.

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