Hong Kong’s fifth wave of Covid-19 is infecting tens of thousands of people daily and has breached the households of top officials. Yet even as their staff, drivers, or even close family members contracted the disease, several leading officials have managed to evade the virus.
Last Saturday, the government loosened its quarantine policies to allow individuals who had received two or more vaccines to end home isolation if they test negative on both the sixth and seventh day of their quarantine. Under the relaxed arrangement, some of the officials were able to return to their offices early.
To date, two top officials – Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology David Chung and Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Occupational Safety and Health) Jeff Leung – have caught Covid-19. But the virus has yet to affect the city’s principal officers, who command the highest ranks in government.
HKFP rounds up the close shaves:
Chief Executive Carrie Lam
- According to the Chief Executive’s Office on February 18, a contract cleaning worker tested preliminarily positive via a Covid-19 rapid test and last went to work that morning. The Office said the worker had worn a face mask on duty and had no contact with Lam or the public in her daily work.
- Earlier on February 15, the Chief Executive’s Office also reported a preliminary positive case among its staff members. The Office said the staffer last worked on February 14 and had not contacted the Chief Executive or the public.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan
- On Tuesday, the Financial Secretary Office’s spokesperson said a domestic worker at Chan’s official residence tested positive for Covid-19. The patient last worked on Sunday and had worn a mask at work. Chan, his family members and other domestic workers later tested negative. Although not counted as a close contact, Chan worked from home for five days until Thursday after consulting the Department of Health (DoH) and “for the sake of prudence.”
- Previously, another domestic worker at Chan’s residence tested preliminary-positive for Covid-19 on February 25. The worker went to work on February 23. Chan and his family, as well as other domestic workers on duty, all tested negative. Chan worked from his residence until February 27 despite not being listed as a close contact.
- The Financial Secretary Office said the two infected domestic workers had not been on duty simultaneously “recently.”
Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee
- After a foreign domestic worker at Lee’s household was confirmed positive for Covid-19 on February 15, Lee and his household members were classified as close contacts and underwent home quarantine. Lee returned to his office after testing negative consecutively on February 27 and 28 with rapid antigen tests.
Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit
- The Innovation and Technology Bureau released a statement on Wednesday saying that a secretary for Sit has tested positive for Covid-19 with a rapid test. The patient last worked on February 24 and met Sit on Feb 22. The bureau said Sit has been taking rapid tests daily and so far has tested negative.
- A driver for Sit received a preliminary positive Covid-19 result on February 22 after testing at a community testing centre on the day before. The patient last worked on February 19. Sit later tested negative via both rapid antigen test and nucleic acid test. He worked from home until February 26 after consulting the DoH.
Secretary for Security Chris Tang
- Tang’s wife and a domestic helper tested positive on February 23, while Tang’s rapid antigen test and deep throat saliva sample returned negative results. Tang and his family members quarantined at home as they were identified as close contacts by the Centre for Health Protection. Tang returned to his office on Wednesday after receiving negative results from rapid tests on his sixth and seventh days of isolation.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan
- The Transport and Housing Bureau said in a press release on February 26 that a driver for Chan tested positive for Covid-19 via a rapid antigen test. His last day of work was February 24. Chan took rapid antigen and swap sampling tests, and both returned negative.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip
- According to the Civil Service Bureau, Nip’s wife tested positive for Covid-19 on February 24. The top official and his other family members subsequently tested negative. They underwent home quarantine while Nip worked remotely. On Thursday, Nip returned to the office after he and his household members tested negative via rapid tests on his sixth and seventh day of quarantine.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing
- Wong’s driver tested positive via a rapid antigen test on February 20 and later received a positive result from a nucleic acid test on February 22. The patient, who wore a mask on duty, last worked for Wong on February 19. Neither Wong’s rapid antigen nor deep throat saliva sample test came back positive. Wong returned to his office on February 22.
Under Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Bernard Chan
- Chan’s driver tested positive for Covid-19 via a rapid test on Wednesday. He had last driven for Chan on Tuesday. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said Chan has tested himself with rapid tests every day since, with all of them returning negative.
Under Secretary for the Environment Tse Chin-wan
- On February 26, the Environment Bureau wrote in a media statement that a secretary who last worked for Tse on February 25 tested positive via a Covid-19 rapid test. The statement said Tse has tested negative in daily rapid tests taken since.
Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Clement Woo
- The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau announced on Friday that a secretary for Woo was tested positive with a rapid test and the patient last worked on Thursday. Woo has been taking rapid tests daily and the results so far have been negative.
Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu
- The Hong Kong Police Force said on February 27 that a driver who last drove for Siu on February 25 rapid tested positive for Covid-19. The force said Siu’s rapid antigen and nucleic acid tests taken in recent days had all returned negative, and a rapid test he had taken that night also showed a negative result.
Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming
- According to a media release published by the Correctional Services Department on Thursday, Woo’s secretary, who last worked on Tuesday, tested positive via a Covid-19 rapid test. Meanwhile, Woo’s rapid test results taken in recent days have all returned negative.
Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Chan Kwok-ki
- A household member of Chan was tested positive with a rapid antigen test on Friday, while the rapid test results of Chan and his other family members were negative. Chan was classified as a Covid-19 close contact and had to undergo household quarantine and work from home.
Director of Environmental Protection Janice Tse
- The Environmental Bureau said on February 24 that a driver for Tse, who last worked the day before, tested preliminarily positive. Tse’s rapid test came back negative.
Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services Eric Pang
- Pang’s son tested preliminarily positive on February 25, while Pang himself tested negative via both rapid antigen tests and nucleic acid sampling, according to a Electrical and Mechanical Services Department spokesperson. Pang and his family members were put under home quarantine, and the official worked remotely during the isolation period.
2 positive cases
Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology David Chung
- Chung’s driver first tested positive on February 18 via a Covid-19 rapid test kit. His subsequent nucleic acid test result received on February 22 also came back positive. The Innovation and Technology Bureau then tested staff at the office, and Chung was identified as a preliminary positive case on February 23.
Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Occupational Safety and Health) Jeff Leung
- On February 3, the Labour Department released a statement saying that “a staff member” had tested positive. Local media, including HK01 and Ming Pao, cited sources saying that the “staff member” was Leung.
‘May not spend a lot of time at home’
When asked about the trend by HKFP during Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing, the Centre for Health Protection’s Principal Medical and Health Officer Albert Au said household contacts of Covid-19 patients “have the highest risk,” as they were “living together, sharing toilets and inside the same household environment.”
Nevertheless, Au said whether infections would occur “depends on a lot of factors,” including the infectiousness of the cases, the family’s vaccination status, whether they had worn masks and adopted other preventive measures, and the ventilation in and size of the home.
David Hui, Chinese University infectious disease expert and government advisor, told HKFP that – although he had no knowledge of these particular cases relating to the government officials – in his view, domestic workers and drivers were “of much higher risk [of infection]” as “they spend more time in the community.”
He added that officials who worked for long hours “may not spend a lot of time at home,” and their partners may spend more time with their domestic workers.