At least 100 well known Hong Kongers are in quarantine after attending a massive birthday party—despite the city state’s regulations against dining indoors after 6 p.m.—adding to what has been a nightmarish week for health authorities trying desperately to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak.
The party, which was to celebrate the birthday of top lawmaker Witman Hung, was held before Carrie Lamb banned indoor dining and closed up bars and gyms after Omicron was identified in the city. Hong Kong, like China, has vowed “zero tolerance” in its battle to keep the country COVID-free ahead of the Winter Games next month.
The blatant recklessness of those who are supposed to set an example irked Lamb. “We have been mounting an all-out effort in fighting the epidemic,” she said Friday. “As top government officials, there is all the more reason for us to set a good example and avoid attending private gatherings that may pose a major hazard.”
The guests now forced into quarantine at the country’s controversial Penny’s Bay quarantine camp include Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui.
Hong Kong has been rattled by a number of superspreader clusters in recent days, including an outbreak on Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship and a restaurant cluster both tied to partying flight attendants from Cathay Pacific Airlines who skirted quarantines.
Health officials warned of an exponential growth in cases as the clusters collide, cross-affecting the group of partying politicians, a dance group that entertained them, churches that their domestic workers attend, and a number of restaurants, according to the South China Post.
On Friday, the newspaper identified another potential super spreader: a COVID-positive 58-year-old woman who attended the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo in Victoria Park on Monday, who may have infected scores of people at the event.
As officials work to contain the various outbreaks, more clusters are expected to pop up when they trace the movements of the original flight attendant who brought Omicron from Los Angeles on a Dec. 27 flight along with her apparently very socially active unvaccinated mother, who seemed to be everywhere at once in the city, including the Six Garden Restaurant in Tin Hau, the political birthday party, and at a church.
“With fourth-generation transmission, there will be exponential growth in cases,” Centre for Health Protection controller Dr. Edwin Tsui Lok-kin said in reference to the flight attendant’s mom whose husband also passed it on to his colleagues. “We also cannot rule out that there are invisible transmission chains in the community.”
To underscore just how contagious the Omicron variant is, officials have used the flight attendant’s mother as an example, outlining how her social interactions may have caused multiple clusters. For example, she visited a friend whose domestic helper then tested positive and infected worshipers at the Fortress Hill Church, including many other workers who then passed it on to families they worked for. The flight attendant’s mom is also thought to be the source of the outbreak at the East Ocean Lafayette restaurant after contracting the virus from her daughter. More than 130 people who were in the restaurant that evening are also now quarantining.
Two other clusters are tied to middle schools where students linked to the dance group cluster spread the virus. Another cluster tied to the Moon Palace restaurant came from a construction worker who dined there and passed it on to a client.