Financial Secretary Paul Chan tested positive for Covid-19 when he returned from Saudi Arabia for a high-level conference intended to stress Hong Kong’s recovery from the pandemic, but was not required to quarantine, the government said late Wednesday.

paul chan bank summit
Financial Secretary Paul Chan spoke at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit on November 2, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

Chan, who had tested positive in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening and was declared “a recovered case” by local health authorities, who did not disclose his positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival. He was deemed to be not contagious and was not ordered to isolate.

The minister attended a major banking summit and gave a speech with his mask off on Wednesday.

Paul Chan
Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan attending the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit on November 2, 2022, wearing a facemask. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Chan replaced his mask when he was back in the audience, but most of the guests did not wear one. Food and drink was served at the event.

The minister gave another speech on the second day of the summit on Thursday morning.

paul chan day 2 summit press
Paul Chan met the press after the morning session of the banking summit. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Meeting the press after the morning session of the summit, Chan said he was not given any special treatment regarding Covid testing and quarantine policy, adding that he had declared his infection on an electronic form prior to boarding a plane back to Hong Kong: “The health authorities look at my PCR test result, take into consideration the details of my health declaration, also take into consideration the fact that I did not have any symptoms on arrival, [and then] they finally decide this is a case of recovery – similar to other 400 cases that they have handled before. So the treatment I have been given was the same as anyone. there is no particular privilege at all.”

It is unclear if Chan took a commercial flight or a private jet to Hong Kong – HKFP has reached out to his office for comment.

Late night response

Responding to media inquiries about Chan’s PCR test result, the government issued a press statement at 11:29 p.m. on Wednesday. However, an actual cycle threshold (CT) value was still missing. A high CT value means a low viral load, meaning a person is less infectious.

“[T]he result was positive with CT value within the range of the above-mentioned recovered cases. The [Centre for Health Protection] evaluated his health declaration record and PCR test result in accordance with established procedures and examined his clinical situation, including he was asymptomatic and had obtained a negative result of RAT prior to boarding,” the statement said.

“The CHP determined that it was a recovered case, isolation and Red code were not issued.”

When attending the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit, Chan would not take part in meals as a “prudent” measure, the statement said.

Hong Kong International Airport Covid-19 arrival travel
Inbound travellers arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The government said that from late September to November 1, there were 455 inbound travellers who had been infected within three months prior to their arrival and tested PCR positive. They were also regarded as recovered and were not given isolation orders or a Red Code under the Vaccine Pass scheme.

Hong Kong has reported 1.9 million Covid-19 cases and 10,410 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.