Greater than two dozen Hong Kong officers have been ordered to quarantine on account of doable COVID-19 publicity, as a scandal over a big birthday celebration they attended regardless of the federal government’s personal pandemic warnings widened.
All the some 170 company at a celebration thrown for a consultant for a mainland Chinese language company have been being despatched to the federal government quarantine camp in Penny’s Bay, well being official Chuang Shuk-kwan mentioned at a press briefing Friday. A few of Hong Kong’s most senior politicians and greater than 20% of its new “patriots-only” legislature will probably be confined to 200-square-foot (20-square-meter) rooms with no wifi entry, simply as the federal government fights an outbreak of the infectious Omicron variant.
Some 30 authorities officers gathered Monday for the birthday of Witman Hung, a neighborhood consultant for the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, regardless of authorities warnings to keep away from mass gatherings. The celebration started at 6 p.m. as a dinner at a Spanish restaurant after which continued till about midnight, officers mentioned Friday. The 2 company who’ve since examined preliminary optimistic for COVID-19 weren’t on the celebration on the similar time.
The small print concerning the celebration got here to mild as extra proof emerged suggesting that the extremely contagious Omicron variant was already spreading broadly. Hong Kong now has not less than three transmission chains and officers mentioned they’ll’t rule out hidden clusters locally.
A big outbreak would undermine Hong Kong Chief Government Carrie Lam’s skill to take care of a COVID-zero technique of eliminating the virus from town’s borders. That coverage has underpinned her objective of restarting quarantine-free journey with the mainland.
The scandal additionally dangers feeding additional public resentment towards Lam’s Beijing-backed authorities, which has maintained a few of the world’s hardest journey curbs, jailed scores of pro-democracy activists, pressured newspaper closures and put in a brand new opposition-free legislature. It comes at an inopportune time for Lam personally, since she should quickly resolve whether or not she’ll search China’s blessing for a second five-year time period as chief.
Lam mentioned on Thursday she was “disillusioned” within the party-going officers whereas attempting to sidestep private blame, saying accountability “doesn’t imply that I’m accountable of the choices and actions of my colleagues.” Earlier within the week, she took a tougher line over alleged COVID-19 violations by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. employees, arguing that “though the administration might not be conscious of all of the actions that every worker takes, it’s not an excuse to to not be blamed.”
These in quarantine embody Monetary Providers Secretary Christopher Hui, Police Chief Raymond Siu, Immigration Director Au Ka-wang, Residence Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui and Impartial Fee In opposition to Corruption Commissioner Simon Peh.
Legislative Council President Andrew Leung mentioned at a information briefing Friday that not less than 19 members of the 90-seat Legislative Council have been on the celebration, including no determination had but been made whether or not to carry Wednesday’s opening session in individual.
Lam mentioned Thursday the officers would face motion with out specifying what type that may take. In the meantime, the celebration’s visitor of honor, Hung, apologized on Fb late Thursday for undermining the federal government’s pandemic efforts. “I’ll definitely be taught a lesson and mirror on it deeply,” he mentioned.
This isn’t the primary time high Hong Kong authorities officers have flouted the steerage they’ve requested members of the general public to observe. In July, three Hong Kong officers—together with Au, the immigration chief—have been fined for attending a hotpot dinner that breached virus measures, inflaming resentment towards the federal government.
In a press release Friday, Au mentioned he’d solely briefly attended the celebration and didn’t sit all the way down to eat. “Relating to the extra burden to the epidemic prevention work and the disturbance to the general public because of my private conduct, I supply my honest apology to all folks of Hong Kong,” he added. “I’ve mirrored on this incident and shall be extra vigilant in future.”
—With help from Olivia Tam.