Hong Kong’s Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai speaks at the Chiming Ceremony to Commemorate the Centenary of the Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower Bell, Dec 9, 2021. [(PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
Hong Kong political figures and officials who attended a private banquet with a COVID-positive guest in the middle of a looming Omicron outbreak apologized for burdening the city's pandemic control campaign and said they will now be extra cautious.
Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang, and Political Assistant to Secretary for Development Allen Fung Ying Lun apologized for attending the private party held in Wan Chai district in the city on Monday for the birthday of Witman Hung Wai-man, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority.
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Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui confirmed that he and Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Joseph Chan briefly stayed at the birthday gathering.
"There were participants of the gathering tested or tested preliminarily positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus involving mutant strains, we therefore will proceed to undergo quarantine at the Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre in accordance with the arrangement of the Centre for Health Protection," he said in a statement late on Friday.
Pointing out that Hong Kong is currently facing severe epidemic situation, he said: "I and Joseph apologise to the community for the additional burden to the anti-epidemic work caused by the incident. We will attach utmost importance to fighting virus and step up vigilance in the future."
Carrie Lam expressed her "deep disappointment" about officials for attending the private banquet when Hong Kong is trying to stamp out the Omicron mutant strain outbreak
They were among 170 guests who participated in the banquet that started at 6 pm and ran until midnight that day. All partygoers, including at least nine other government officials and 20 lawmakers, were ordered into quarantine as close contacts after one guest was confirmed infected and another tested preliminary positive.
Hung and the officials said they have taken a good lesson from the incident and will have a deep reflection.
Meeting the press on Thursday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed her "deep disappointment" about officials, particularly Tsui, for attending the private banquet when the city is trying to stamp out the highly contagious Omicron mutant strain outbreak.
In addition, lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen said that Tsui and he, together with other colleagues, had lunch on Tuesday. Tik said he along with his colleagues are waiting for the test results, and urged the government to unveil more details about the incident.
The coming two weeks are critical to quell the Omicron outbreak, respiratory disease expert Leung Chi-chiu said, urging all residents to stay at home as much as possible.
READ MORE: Stay home, as much as possible, says HK respiratory disease
Wearing masks and the government's ban on indoor dining after 6 pm are not sufficient enough as the mutant strain is highly contagious and can be transmitted easily, he added.