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HK official says diplomats quarantine-exempt but must follow rules

18 August 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Chan tells legislators quarantine exemptions are necessary to keep HK going

Hong Kong has recorded more than 200 confirmed coronavirus cases involving air and sea crew members, but has not kept tabs of cases involving government officials, such as foreign diplomats. 

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan disclosed this in the Legislative Council Question Hour today, Aug 18, in answer to a query by LegCo Member Chan Cun-ying.   


Responding to a question from Legco member Chan Cun-ying, Chan said the Chief Secretary has exempted certain categories of persons from quarantine to keep the society and economy running.

These exempted persons include cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers, aircraft crew members, and government officials, she said. 

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“These officials include consuls general or equivalent of the consulates general in Hong Kong and their immediate family members,” Chan said.

But their exemption upon arrival in Hong Kong is subject to certain conditions, including regular testing, self-isolation or restricted movement, the secretary said.


“These conditions are adjusted from time to time in accordance with the global and local epidemic situation and the risk assessment of respective exemption categories,” Chan said, adding these people also are subject to medical surveillance while in Hong Kong.

The exemption of foreign diplomats and their families was on the spotlight last month when three minor children of a Saudi Arabian consular officer in Hong Kong infected with the Delta variant were found to have breached their home isolation.

The diplomats' children left their Taikoo home where they were supposed to isolate

During the investigation, the Department of Health discovered that the diplomat’s children had left their home in Taikoo Shing where they were meant to be in isolation.

“The DH took immediate action to revoke their exemption status and transfer them to undergo compulsory quarantine. The Protocol Division also contacted the relevant consulate general immediately,” Chan said.


“The consulate general assured that it would fully cooperate with the quarantine measures imposed by the government and has reminded its officials to comply with the relevant quarantine requirements,” she said.

Chan said the Hong Kong government has reviewed the border control arrangements for exempted persons and has issued letters to respective consulates general to advise relevant persons to strictly comply with the exemption conditions.


She said the government does not have information on the exemption arrangements by other jurisdictions for officials of their consulates general and their immediate family members.

For other government officials carrying out duties in Hong Kong and those who have performed official duties in places outside China or Taiwan on the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong, they must be subject to self-isolation upon arrival in the SAR, Chan said.

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She said from July 1 last year to August 6, there had been 145 air crew members and 112 seafarers who were confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the CHP confirmed three new Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong today, Aug 18, all of them imported.

The three are a woman from Turkey aged 39, a 31-year-old seaman from Indonesia, and a man aged 27 who arrived from the United States. The woman and the man from the US were asymptomatic.

The woman arrived on Aug 13 via Qatar Airways flight QR818 and tested positive on Day 3 of her quarantine at Dorsett Hotel in Wan Chai.

The man from the US tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong airport. 

Staff from the Department of Health said the seaman was on board a ship that had been anchored in Hong Kong waters for several days when he fell ill. 

He was confirmed positive yesterday, but his ship had already left Hong Kong for an unknown destination. 

The new patients took Hong Kong’s Covid-19 tally to 12,043.
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