Hong Kong officials have tested positive for Covid, casting doubt on Xi’s potential visit

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Eric Tsang and Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Eric Chan have tested positive for nucleic acids and are in self-isolation, the Hong Kong government said in a statement Thursday.

Their infections have raised concerns about a possible visit by state leaders for the city’s July 1 celebrations, which include the swearing in of Hong Kong’s new leader and the anniversary of his handover from British rule in 1997.

It also calls into question the reliability of the city’s “closed loop”, which requires officials to avoid public gatherings and enter quarantine before scheduled ceremonies.

As China takes a Byzantine approach to sudden lockdowns, mass testing and quarantine to maintain its zero-Covid policy, Chinese officials appear to be taking extra precautions to avoid contracting the virus.

Xi has not left mainland China since the pandemic began more than two years ago. And while whether or not he will attend the handover ceremony remains a closely guarded secret, the Hong Kong government has begun making preparations for the arrival of a delegation of state leaders due to the still largely closed border with the mainland.

On Thursday, high-ranking Hong Kong officials entered into a closed-loop system whereby they can only travel between home and work by private vehicle and must spend the night in a quarantine hotel on the eve of the anniversary of the handover. They are also tested daily for Covid-19.

“Mr. Tsang and Mr. Chang last went to work on June 22 and June 20, respectively. They wore masks and followed appropriate disease prevention measures at work, including daily rapid antigen tests with negative results. said in a government statement.

The statement did not mention the symptoms of the two officials.

Chan is set to become the city’s No. 2 official on July 1, when Hong Kong’s new leader John Lee takes the helm.

Despite high vaccination rates and a decline in overall cases, the Hong Kong government remains committed to its own “Covid zero” style policy, maintaining strict social distancing and contact tracing measures, as well as tight border restrictions, including mandatory seven-day hotel stays. quarantine for all arrivals.

Additional reporting by CNN’s Martin Goylando and Hannah Ritchie.

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