Hong Kong orders about 170 party-goers to quarantine

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong authorities ordered about 170 people, including several officials, to be quarantined at a government facility on Friday after they attended a birthday party where two guests later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam expressed disappointment on Thursday that government officials had attended the large party during the omicron outbreak, saying it did not set a good example for the public.

Fears of a new virus cluster were sparked when the two guests tested positive. On Friday, health authorities said all guests at the Jan. 3 party would be classified as close contacts and be sent to mandatory quarantine.

The city has been racing to control the omicron variant, with authorities locking down multiple residential buildings for mass testing and sending hundreds of people into quarantine.

About 170 guests attended the birthday party, including about nine government officials and nearly 20 lawmakers.

“We now think that every person who had gone to the party is now a close contact. Therefore, our quarantine work is specifically aimed at the people who have attended the party,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch at the Center for Health Protection.

Local media including the South China Morning Post reported that the party was held for Witman Hung, the principal liaison officer for Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, which oversees economic development between Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

The government officials at the party included Hong Kong police chief Raymond Siu, home affairs minister Caspar Tsui and Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang.

Au apologized in a statement Friday, saying he would be more vigilant in the future.

“Regarding the additional burden to the epidemic prevention work and the disturbance to the public as a result of my personal behavior, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” he said.

Hong Kong tightened epidemic restrictions this week, banning dining-in at restaurants and eateries after 6 p.m. and ordering businesses such as museums, beauty salons and gyms to close for two weeks. The city has also banned passenger flights from eight countries, including the U.S. and Britain, from landing until at least Jan. 21.

Authorities reported 33 new confirmed infections on Friday, 26 of which were imported. They also reported over 30 preliminary-positive cases.

The city has reported a total of 12,749 infections and 213 deaths.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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