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Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

Hong Kong health authority apologizes for Indian consulate staff’s quarantine exemption

Hong Kong health authority apologizes for Indian consulate staff’s quarantine exemption

Hong Kong's health authority made an apology on Monday for a quarantine exemption arrangement of an Indian visitor, who was diagnosed as a confirmed case of COVID-19 on October 15 after arriving to and leaving the airport on the same day.
The man, a staff member of the Indian consulate general in Hong Kong, flew into Hong Kong from New Delhi on October 15, according to a statement released by Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health on Monday.

Prior to boarding the flight, the man produced a negative result to a COVID-19 nucleic acid test completed at a laboratory recognized by the local government, read the statement. He enjoyed a quarantine exemption upon arrival after proving his identity as a consular staff member in Hong Kong, it added.

The local health authority said it was later informed by another relevant government department that the man "does not belong to a rank that can be exempted from compulsory quarantine requirements even though he is a consular staff [member] in Hong Kong."

The man, therefore, should have undergone the compulsory quarantine in a hotel room instead of directly leaving Hong Kong International Airport under prevailing policies.

The Department of Health expressed its apologies in the Monday statement for "the inappropriate quarantine arrangement," saying it has reminded relevant staff to be prudent when handling quarantine exemption arrangements to avoid any similar incidents.

The man was immediately taken to his residence in a vehicle arranged by the consulate after leaving the airport, the statement said. His deep throat saliva sample collected at the airport tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day, it said.

The local health authorities stated that they immediately informed the man of the result and transferred him to a public hospital for isolation and treatment. Before then, the patient said he had been staying at his residence alone upon arrival without leaving.

The incident had drawn wide attention among Hong Kong netizens, with some on social media calling for tighter COVID-19 prevention measures to avoid possible virus transmissions. "I don't want to see quarantine exemption or its related policies become holes in pandemic prevention," wrote a Facebook user on Tuesday.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert based in Beijing, told the Global Times that Hong Kong should enhance its tracking of imported patients as the global pandemic situation remains serious, especially in the US, India and European areas.

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