Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines after mutant Covid-19 strain detected

The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on April 18, 29 of which were imported.
The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on April 18, 29 of which were imported.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines from April 20 for two weeks after the N501Y mutant Covid-19 strain was detected in the Asian financial hub for the first time, authorities said in a statement late on Sunday (April 18).

The three countries would be classified as "extremely high risk" after there had been multiple imported cases carrying the strain into Hong Kong in the past 14 days, the government said.

Visitors who have stayed in the three countries for more than two hours in the past 21 days will also be restricted from boarding any passenger flights to Hong Kong.

The bans stem from a circuit breaker arrangement that Hong Kong has instituted, which was triggered for each of the countries as there had been five or more arrivals with the N501Y mutant coronavirus strain within seven days, the government said.

The strain was first detected in South Africa.

Neighbouring Macau will also require visitors who have been to the three countries to quarantine for 28 days at a designated place upon arrival, according to a government statement.

Hong Kong reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 29 of which were imported, marking the highest daily toll since March 15.

The city has recorded over 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths.

Hong Kong authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9 per cent of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents vaccinated so far.

The government last week widened the city's vaccine scheme to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations amongst residents.

Airlines impacted by Hong Kong's ban on travellers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific.