Hong Kong leader self-isolates with COVID-19

Hong Kong leader John Lee has tested positive for coronavirus after meeting other regional leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Thailand, the city government said on Monday.

Lee tested negative during his four-day stay in Bangkok, but his test on arrival at Hong Kong airport on Sunday night was positive, he said.

Lee is now in isolation and will be working from home, according to a statement from the Office of the Chief Executive Officer. Other officials in his office who went to Thailand with Lee have tested negative.

Lee had a mild fever and sore throat in the afternoon, the office said in a later statement.

Lee’s goal at the Asia-Pacific economies forum was to promote Hong Kong’s image as the city reopens to the world after imposing severe COVID-19 restrictions for much of the pandemic.

During his trip, Lee met with various leaders, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. In some closed-door sessions, he sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, where both leaders were seen without masks. He also shook hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was wearing a mask.

On his first day, he met Xi at the Bangkok airport and was seen standing next to the Chinese president as they entered a gala dinner that evening. On Saturday, Lee said that he had spoken with Xi and briefed the president on the status of Hong Kong.

When asked about Xi’s health, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that “Chinese delegations in foreign countries have been following established COVID protocols.” She did not elaborate.

In September, Hong Kong removed its mandatory hotel quarantine measures for incoming travelers as it sought to remain competitive and open up globally. But travelers have to undergo three days of home surveillance. If they test negative for the virus after three days, they will be allowed into places like restaurants and bars.

As of last Friday, the rules were further relaxed for visitors coming to Hong Kong in tour groups. Those who apply and meet certain conditions may eat at designated restaurants during the first three days of their visit.

Lee said on Sunday that the easing of restrictions would be gradual and balanced against the risks.

Last week, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen left the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia early due to his own positive COVID-19 diagnosis. It came just days after he hosted US President Joe Biden and other leaders at a Southeast Asia summit. Biden did not attend the APEC meeting.