The first two people found to be carrying a mutant strain of coronavirus in Hong Kong have been sentenced to prison after they admitted lying to authorities who were trying to trace their movements in April.

The 30-year-old man, who arrived from Dubai, was sent to prison for three months and his 31-year-old woman companion for 20 days. The cases eventually led to the quarantine of over 1,600 people and a compulsory testing programme for all of Hong Kong’s 370,000 foreign domestic workers.

Photo: GovHK.

Magistrate Ada Yim, passing sentence on Monday, said the misleading information prevented health authorities from making the quickest possible response to the new variant, and had endangered the city’s public health, HK01 reported. She said the sentences were intended to send a message to the public.

The woman was released following sentencing as she had already been detained for 20 days.

Vaccination programme expansion

Health authorities announced they would expand the government’s free Covid-19 vaccination programme to about 2,000 visitors with valid travel documents who cannot leave the city because of Covid travel restrictions.

Photo: GovHK.

Travellers can register for the programme at any post office from Tuesday with their travel documents and the landing slips for extension of stay labels issued by the Immigration Department.

“On public health considerations, providing vaccination for these other visitors will help prevent the spread of the virus in the community and thus enhance Hong Kong’s overall anti-epidemic capability,” a government statement said.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme currently covers Hong Kong residents aged 12 or above, foreign domestic workers, and mainland visitors with Exit-entry Permits for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao.

File photo: GovHK.

The government has previously said that the vaccination programme will also be expanded to asylum-seekers from around mid-July but has yet to announce an exact date.

As of Sunday, around 2,370,400 people in the city of 7.5 million had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 1,591,300 of them had been fully vaccinated.

Local case reclassified

Authorities reclassified the case of a cleaner in a quarantine hotel who was infected with a mutant strain as an imported infection, meaning the city has now gone 28 days without a local case.

The woman’s infection had previously been classified as a local case of unknown origin.

The Centre for Health Protection said the infection was genetically linked to another imported case, that of a guest in a room which the woman later cleaned.

The city reported one imported case from the UK on Monday, meaning there were 11,944 infections and 211 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic 18 months ago.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.