First patients in HK with COVID-19 variants arrested over providing misleading info

Kanis Leung and Christy Leung, South China Morning Post

Posted at May 08 2021 09:09 PM

Hong Kong’s first two patients found locally with Covid-19 variants were arrested on Saturday over providing misleading information to authorities for contact tracing, the Post has learned.

A government source said a 29-year-old engineer from Dubai and his 31-year-old female friend, both of whom were confirmed as infected last month, were taken into custody in the morning and being detained in Yau Ma Tei Police Station. The source said they would be asked to give a statement under caution.

The man was arrested on suspicion of giving misleading information, while his friend was detained for refusing to provide particulars, the source said.

The source added the case would be handled by the Department of Health, which would seek legal advice from the Department of Justice and decide whether prosecution was necessary.

Under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, refusing to provide required information or giving false or misleading particulars to a medical practitioner is an offence which could result in six months’ imprisonment.

Hong Kong last week was gripped by fears over the emergence of invisible transmission links of mutant Covid-19 strains after researchers found a 39-year-old helper and the 10-month-old baby she took care of had the same genomes of the coronavirus as the 29-year-old man.

The three were found to be carrying the B.1.351 variant, first reported in South Africa. Their identical genomes suggested they probably had transmission links, but authorities found they had not been to the same places.

Two days later, the Centre for Health Protection found the arrested pair and the domestic helper had visited Citygate Outlets in Tung Chung on April 11.

Extensive contact tracing showed the two were linked to several more mutated infections.

The centre said the pair had attended a gathering with three others at a flat in Fung Hing House in Hing Wah (II) Estate in Chai Wan on April 13. The three others later went to another gathering with three helpers who were confirmed to be infected with the strain, one of whom was the 39-year-old domestic worker whose case first triggered the fears of hidden transmissions.

The female suspect’s mother, who lived in that estate, was also infected.

By Friday, health authorities said the cluster sparked by the pair had grown to eight people.


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