HONG KONG: Four Hong Kong lawmakers and its immigration czar joined another top official at a quarantine camp as a coronavirus scare widened on Friday (Jan 7), ensnaring the territory’s political elite after they attended a large birthday party.
The latest five entries into Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine facilities have left city authorities red-faced as they install a new “patriots only” legislature, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting next Wednesday.
They are joining Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui, who was sent to the camp Thursday after being deemed a close contact with a potential carrier.
By Friday, he was joined by four other lawmakers and immigration chief Au Ka-wang – all of whom had attended a birthday party Monday at a Spanish tapas restaurant.
“I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong. I have reflected on this incident and shall be more vigilant in future,” Au said in a statement Friday.
He added he was at the restaurant for a short time and “left immediately after congratulating my friend without having a meal sitting down”.
Officials separately confirmed the lawmakers sent to the quarantine facility will miss the start of the legislative term.
“I feel I acted carelessly and I rather regret it,” affected lawmaker Duncan Chiu told local radio Friday morning. “This has set a bad example.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said she was “very disappointed” in the large gathering of officials for Monday’s party.
It was held to celebrate the birthday of Witman Hung, a member of China’s top lawmaking body, according to local media.
While the party was legal under rules at the time, health officials had advised people three days earlier to avoid big gatherings.
The government upped COVID-19 restrictions this week, after a small outbreak of the Omicron variant in the city was traced to a Cathay Pacific flight crew.