The investigation into whether 15 government officials who attended Chinese official Witman Hung’s now infamous birthday party violated Covid-19 rules is “ongoing” and will not be “left unresolved,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday, after two top officials left Penny’s Bay.
Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui and Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang left the government quarantine facility on Monday after completing 14 days of isolation. They were among several officials and lawmakers sent to Penny’s Bay after a guest at the birthday party was later confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.
The chief executive said that the pair would not return to their duties next Monday at the earliest, as they still have to undergo another seven days of self-monitoring at home.
“The investigation is still on going, just like I said last week. I will definitely explain to the public when it’s completed,” said Lam.
“I can guarantee to you that whether it is the investigation into Cathay Pacific or government officials who attended the party, it will not be left unresolved, because society needs to know the facts, and I have to be fair, whether it’s to a corporation or to my own colleagues.”
Officials who attended the party were suspected of violating Covid-19 social-distancing measures, after preliminary information reported to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department suggested that there might have been violations of anti-epidemic regulations.
The government also launched investigations into the city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific, after the airline was accused of non-compliance with Covid-19-related government rules.
Two of the carrier’s former crew members were arrested and charged on Monday, after they allegedly breached quarantine restrictions.
Anti-epidemic relief fund
The chief executive also said that industries impacted by tighter social-distancing rules preferred to reopen their businesses rather than receive subsidies, after the government announced last Friday it would soon be dispensing a fifth round of anti-epidemic relief funding.
“Of course we will provide support based on the pandemic situation and the impact of anti-pandemic and social distancing measures on businesses and individuals, but every time this kind of support cannot fully fulfil the demand of the industries,” said Lam.
“That’s why we need to unite in our efforts to fight the pandemic, because there are a lot of people affected every time there is an outbreak, and a lot of economic activities are affected, it is difficult to fully compensate. In fact, a lot of industries said that instead of support and subsidies, they would rather reopen sooner.”
‘Close to zero’ tourists in 2021
The number of tourists visiting the city last year dropped by more than 97 per cent compared to 2020, figures released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board on Monday showed.
According to the tourism body, the number of leisure visitors “remained close to zero” as most people who travelled to the city came to visit family or out of necessity.
Hong Kong saw 65,694 arrivals from mainland China and 25,704 travellers from the rest of the world in 2021, with many subject to strict travel restrictions including a 21-day compulsory hotel quarantine or even flight bans.
The city has reported a total of 13,048 infections and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic just over two years ago.