Hong Kong lawmaker pictured with Chinese President Xi tests positive for Covid-19

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By Wayne Chang and Ivana Kottasova, CNN

A Hong Kong lawmaker who was photographed standing near Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week announced on Sunday that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Steve Ho Chun-Yin said he tested negative on Thursday when he attended the photocall during celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city’s transfer from Britain to China.

The pro-Beijing lawmaker stood a row behind Xi, photos from the day showed.

Ho said he tested mildly positive on Friday and had to be tested again. He did not attend any of the discount’s anniversary celebration events that day, according to a statement posted on his official Facebook page. He later tested positive for the virus on Sunday.

The fact that someone who came into contact with Xi tested positive for the virus will be seen as a blow to the Hong Kong administration, which has spent a lot of time and resources preparing for the visit and trying to ensure she remains Covid-free.

The border between Hong Kong and mainland China remains largely sealed due to the virus.

Prior to his visit, hundreds of Hong Kong officials and lawmakers were forced into a “closed loop” system to prevent any further spread of the virus. They were only allowed to travel between home and work in a private vehicle and were forced to spend a night in a quarantine hotel on the eve of the anniversary of the handover. They were also subjected to daily tests.

Xi, who has not traveled outside mainland China since the pandemic began more than two years ago, spent Thursday and Friday in Hong Kong. He attended birthday events and the swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong’s new leader appointed by Beijing, former security chief and police officer John Lee.

Concerns about the visit began to emerge last week, even before the trip was officially confirmed, when two senior Hong Kong officials tested positive for Covid-19.

China is isolated globally in its approach to Covid-19, as it continues to pursue a zero-tolerance approach that critics say is more rooted in political ideology than science.

Xi himself has imposed a strict “zero-Covid” policy on China, with state media often reporting that he “personally commanded and arranged” for the country’s fight against the pandemic.

Despite high vaccination rates and a reduction in the total number of cases, the Hong Kong government remains committed to its own “zero Covid” style policy, maintaining strict social distancing and contact tracing measures, as well as Strict border restrictions – including a mandatory seven-day hotel quarantine for all arrivals.

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CNN’s Jessie Yeung and Kathleen Magramo contributed reporting.

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