Hong Kong’s leader has turned down an invitation from Beijing to attend the opening of China’s annual parliamentary meetings on Saturday, citing her “overriding mission” to lead the city’s efforts against a worsening coronavirus outbreak. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s decision to skip the so-called two sessions was confirmed by her office on Monday, days after a number of local delegates to the convening bodies had to abruptly cancel their trips and quarantine in Shenzhen hotels after coming into contact with Covid-19 patients. “In view of the severe epidemic situation in Hong Kong, the chief executive will stay in Hong Kong and continue to lead Hong Kong to fight the epidemic with all-out efforts, with the overriding mission of stabilising the epidemic,” a spokesman for the Chief Executive’s Office said. On Sunday, Hong Kong’s daily caseload hit a new high of more than 26,000, with 83 deaths reported. Pro-Beijing delegation on way to top political meetings stuck in 21-day quarantine This will be the second time Lam misses a key national ceremony this year due to the city’s surging fifth wave of infections. She was similarly forced to skip the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 4. At least 16 Hong Kong delegates will not be able to attend the coming meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) due to potential exposure to the coronavirus, while others have said they are staying in the city for different reasons. The latest figure to drop out was NPC deputy and lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, who on Tuesday came into contact with an employee of the Legislative Council’s secretariat who later tested preliminary-positive. He was notified about the exposure after his arrival in Shenzhen for a mandatory seven-day quarantine before flying on to Beijing. Writing on Facebook late Sunday night, Ma said he was “very regretful” about his absence. He said that despite his conversation with the patient lasting less than half a minute and being conducted at a distance of three metres, he was quarantined in a mainland hotel for 21 days. “During the quarantine process in Shenzhen, I experienced how the mainland’s strict epidemic control measures are starkly different from those in Hong Kong,” he said. “To achieve ‘dynamic zero infections’, the Hong Kong government has to be determined and earnest.” On Friday, CPPCC delegate Irons Sze Wing-wai was found to be infected upon arrival in Shenzhen, prompting 11 other local delegates who were on the same coach to undergo 21 days of isolation in the mainland city. Sze was sent to a Shenzhen hospital for treatment. Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the NPC Standing Committee, who had already completed his one-week isolation period in Shenzhen, said he too would not be attending the two sessions due to his “brief contact” with Sze on a previous occasion. He would instead remain in Shenzhen to complete the 21-day quarantine requirement. What can we expect from China’s 2022 ‘two sessions’ as Beijing plots course? Other absentees will include Maria Tam Wai-chu, vice-chairwoman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, and Wong Yuk-shan, a member of the Basic Law Committee. Meanwhile, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu resumed work on Monday after completing 14 days of home quarantine prompted by his domestic helper contracting Covid-19, according to a statement from his office.