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Health experts call for lifting quarantine exemption for consular staff

21 July 2021

By The SUN

No new cases were found during the overnight lockdown of the Tai Koo building where the kids live

Hong Kong health experts have called for the revocation of quarantine exemptions given to foreign consular officers after two children of a staff member at the Saudi Arabian consulate were confirmed today, Jul 21, to have been infected with Covid-19.

A compulsory testing notice issued by the Centre for Health Protection Tuesday night showed the two children, who arrived in Hong Kong on Jul 16, had apparently gone out to the Peak and Tung Chung when they were supposed to be isolating at home.


The older child, a 13-year-old girl, was also found to carry the L452R mutant strain commonly linked to the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The result of the test on her 11-year-old brother is still pending.

The two were among five imported cases reported today. The three others are a 36-year-old woman who came from Bangladesh and tested positive on arrival test; as well as a 27-year-old woman from Cambodia and a 36-year-old woman from United Arab Emirates who were found infected three days after arrival while in hotel quarantine.

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The woman from Bangladesh was also found to carry the mutant strain of the virus while test results on specimens taken from the two other women are still pending.

A report in the South China Morning Post said the Saudi consulate worker and members of his household were moved to a quarantine camp after the children’s infections were detected.


They were also all stripped of their quarantine-exempt privilege following the discovery that they had flouted the rules on self-isolation.

The two kids reportedly visited the Peak Galleria while supposedly on home isolation

Hong Kong lists 12 groups eligible for quarantine exemptions when arriving from abroad, including government officials on official trips, air and sea crew and directors of listed companies.


Foreign service staff who enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunity under international law, are given the same benefit.

However, they must all still comply with self-isolation restrictions imposed by Hong Kong authorities. 


Respiratory medicine specialist Dr Leung Chi-chiu said in the SCMP interview that the government should review the quarantine exemption arrangements and stipulate who should qualify and how best to ensure they complied with the rules.

He questioned in particular why the children were covered by the exemption when their visit in Hong Kong was very likely unrelated to business matters.

Another expert, microbiologist Ho Pak-leung, asked the government to stop exempting consular officers who are coming back from high-risk places for Covid-19.

“The virus can spread among consular officials…Even if you’re the president of the prime minister, if you come from high-risk places you can still get infected,” Ho said in an interview on an RTHK program.

According to the CHP, the infected girl developed symptoms on Saturday, but this did not apparently stop her and other members of her household from visiting the Peak Galleria.

The next day they visited the Citygate shopping centre and a cable car terminal in Tung Chung.

Meanwhile, an overnight lockdown of Tang Kung Mansion in Tai Koo Shing where the consulate staff and his family live, did not yield any new infection.

No positive case was found, either, during a similar operation at Leon Mansion in Wanchai where a previously confirmed patient had stayed before flying out to Paris, then back to Hong Kong on Jul 16.

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