Mutant covid outbreak duo await sentence fate

Local | Wallis Wang 22 Jun 2021

An Indian engineer who was the first person to carry a mutant Covid-19 strain into the community and his female friend have pleaded guilty to providing false information to health officers.

The two attended a family gathering on April 13, leading to 11 infections involving the N501Y variant first found in South Africa. The outbreak also caused the evacuation of 1,600 people from homes and triggered mandatory tests for all 370,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Syed Mohamed Rizvi, 30, admitted six counts of providing false information to officials in April.

His female friend, 31-year-old Filipino nurse Victoria Marie Alcaide Guadiz, pleaded guilty to one count of the same charge.

Kowloon City principal magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee said the two had committed serious offenses amid the pandemic and adjourned the hearing to July 5 for sentencing. They were remanded in custody.

Under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Disclosure of Information) Regulation, anyone who provides false or misleading information to health officials could be fined HK$10,000 and jailed for up to six months.

The court has heard Rizvi arrived from Dubai on March 19 and was quarantined until April 8. He then lived with Guadiz in Parkes Building in Jordan.

On April 16, Rizvi tested positive. But he told health officials the same day he only went to Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan alone from April 10 to April 12, and did not join any gatherings or contact others. The prosecution told the court yesterday that Rizvi was the "index case" for the N501Y mutant strain found in the local community.

The two defendants infected four family members at the April 13 gathering at Hing Wah Estate, Chai Wan. Another five people later tested positive.

When officers from the Department of Health called Guadiz, she denied knowing Rizvi at first but later admitted she went to Cheung Chau with him.

In mitigation, the defense said Rizvi concealed his whereabouts because he did not want his friend's family to be questioned.

Guadiz said she would take responsibility for her offense.

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