Xi Jinping in Covid scare after first visit outside Chinese mainland since pandemic began

Jinping didn’t shake hands with or hug anymore during his visit to Hong Kong and remained masked

Related: John Lee sworn in as Hong Kong’s next leader

A Hong Kong lawmaker who posed with Chinese president Xi Jinping for a group photo tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday.

Mr Xi was visiting Hong Kong to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China.

This was the president’s first trip outside the Chinese mainland in more than two and a half years, right before the Covid pandemic surged across the globe.

Mr Xi delivered an “important speech” — according to the Chinese state-owned Global Times — “summarising the practice of the one country, two systems principle.”

The Chinese leader stayed in Hong Kong for less than 24 hours and met people who had undergone quarantine and tested negative for Covid.

However, a day after meeting Mr Xi, Hong Kong lawmaker Steve Ho — a legislator from the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong — said that he has tested positive for Covid.

He had earlier tested negative on 30 June, right before meeting the Chinese leader. On 1 July, he returned an “uncertain” result. As a result, he didn’t take part in any events that day.

“The sample of July 1 was one with extremely low infectivity and it was categorised as ‘uncertain’, but for the sake of public security, I did not participate in the events on that day,” Mr Ho wrote on his social media.

However, on Sunday, he announced his positive Covid status.

Mr Ho was the second legislator from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of the Hong Kong party to have tested positive around Mr Xi’s visit. Earlier Tam Yiu Chung, another pro-Beijing politician tested positive on Thursday and as a result, didn’t participate in any events.

Meanwhile, Mr Ho was seen wearing a mask and standing two rows behind Mr Xi in a group photograph on the occasion.

Before his visit, there were some doubts over whether Mr Xi would actually go to Hong Kong given the territory’s struggle to control a surge in infections this year.

John Lee, the new chief executive of Hong Kong, has said that he has no immediate plans to conduct universal testing. He said that testing close contacts and people who had been on premises with confirmed cases was enough for now.

Meanwhile, Mr Xi said during his speech that “Hong Kong has withstood severe tests, again and again, overcoming challenges one by one.” He added, in reference to the massive pro-democracy protests: “After the wind and rain, Hong Kong has risen from the ashes.”

The Chinese leader remained masked up during his visit, except when giving his speech at a distance from the crowd. He also did not shake hands with or hug anyone.

The Chinese president arrived in Hong Kong with his wife at West Kowloon railway station on Thursday last week.

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