Coronavirus: Hong Kong leader John Lee tests positive for Covid-19 after returning from Apec summit

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  • Lee is being isolated in accordance with guidelines, government spokesman says
  • He was seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping during closed-door sessions of Apec summit
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Chief Executive John Lee visited Bangkok for an Apec summit. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong leader John Lee Ka-chiu has tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a trip to Thailand for a high-level regional trade summit.

The government on Monday said Lee’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result was positive at Hong Kong International Airport upon arrival on Sunday night after he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Bangkok. His flight landed at 9.30pm.

“He is now being isolated in accordance with the guidelines of the Centre for Health Protection [CHP] of the Department of Health,” a government spokesman said. “His rapid antigen tests conducted during his four-day visit to Bangkok were negative.”

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The spokesman said Lee would work from home and attend video meetings if necessary.

Staff from the Chief Executive’s Office who accompanied Lee on his trip all tested negative at the airport and would work from home until the CHP had completed its assessment on whether they were close contacts.

Lee headed to Bangkok on Thursday and later went out for breakfast and shopping. The summit began on Friday and ended on Saturday.

John Lee (centre) eats out in Bangkok. Photo: Handout

The arrangements for the summit had him seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the closed-door sessions where they both took off their masks. However, no one-to-one meeting was arranged between them.

He also sat next to foreign minister Wang Yi and met the Chinese ambassador to Thailand, Han Zhiqiang, twice during his trip.

Lee also met Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and leaders such as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

During a gala dinner he was seated next to Widodo’s wife Iriana and Malaysian Chief Secretary Mohd Zuki bin Alio and was part of a leaders’ delegation to see Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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On Sunday, Lee visited a Bangkok restaurant where he sampled the local cuisine and met staff of Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Office in the Thai capital. He later went to grocery stores and other shops.

He also visited the offices of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, Thailand’s largest conglomerate, and the Amata Corporation, a real estate company that specialises in industrial buildings. He met Dhanin Chearavanont, senior chairman of the CP Group and ranked Thailand’s richest man by business magazine Forbes.

Lee also took a 20-strong business delegation, which included Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah and Hong Kong Trade Development Council chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok, to Bangkok.

Themed “Balanced, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”, the regional forum featured more than 20 economies and was Lee’s first overseas trip since taking office as chief executive in July.

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