Hong Kong leader John Lee has tested positive for COVID-19 after travelling to a regional economic summit in an effort to restore the city’s battered international image and struggling economy.
Lee tested positive on Monday, the city’s government said, days after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok.
“The Chief Executive is undergoing quarantine in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Centre for Health Protection,” the government said in a statement.
Lee’s office said he would work from home during his mandatory isolation period, and no member of his staff who accompanied him had tested positive.
The APEC summit was Lee’s first overseas trip since taking office in July and his first in any official capacity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic almost three years ago.
Lee, a former security chief and policeman, cast the trip as an opportunity to promote Hong Kong’s return to the international stage after the city in September ended its controversial mandatory hotel quarantine regime for arrivals.
The international financial hub, however, still maintains some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 curbs, including mask mandates, vaccine passes and a three-day monitoring period under which arrivals are barred from venues such as restaurants and bars.
Despite the lifting of mandatory quarantine, arrivals to the city in October were down almost 98 percent compared with the same month in 2019.
The city is deep in recession for the second time in three years, with the economy contracting 4.5 percent in the July-September period after shrinking 1.3 percent the previous quarter.
In Thailand, Lee said he would tell “good stories” about Hong Kong, whose overseas reputation has also been hammered by China’s sweeping crackdown on dissent in the former British colony.
During the summit, Lee met with Xi and regional leaders, including Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
The APEC summit wrapped up on Saturday with the issuing of a statement saying the war in Ukraine had caused “immense human suffering” and “significant consequences for the global economy” while noting there are “other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions”.