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Dozens of Hong Kong officials in Covid quarantine after birthday party

Dozens of senior officials and legislators in Hong Kong have been sent into a 21-day quarantine after they attended a birthday party despite the government’s own pandemic warning.

The embarrassing incident came as the city’s new “patriots only” legislature is scheduled to hold its first meeting next week. Concerns had been raised in recent weeks after a number of Omicron cases were identified in Hong Kong. Health officials say they cannot rule out hidden clusters in the community.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said it was a “deep disappointment” that her bureaucrats ignored the government’s own advice on avoiding large gatherings in the middle of an Omicron outbreak.

The party, held at a Spanish tapas restaurant earlier in the week, was to celebrate the 53rd birthday of Witman Hung Wai-man, a local delegate to China’s top national legislature. The well-connected politician invited a long list of the city’s political establishment, ranging from the home affairs secretary to the security chief.

At least 19 members of the 90-seat legislative council, who were sworn in this week, were also among the 170 attendees. One of the lawmakers, Junius Ho, travelled to Shenzhen two days after the party and met a top Beijing official there.