Coronavirus: Travel

Hong Kong to ban flights from the Philippines, India and Pakistan

HONG KONG • Hong Kong will ban flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 14 days starting from today as the city reported the first two cases with highly transmissible virus variant in the community over the weekend.

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 government said on Sunday, adding the countries are now classified as areas of "extremely high risk".

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, it said. The strain was first detected in South Africa.

The moves come after Hong Kong reported the first two cases of a mutant coronavirus strain in the community over the weekend, another hurdle in the city's efforts to bring ongoing waves of Covid cases fully under control. Officials are trying to convince sceptical residents to get vaccinated - seen as key to reopening the economy and reviving travel.

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

Hong Kong quarantined 81 residents of a building in a densely populated Kowloon neighbourhood on Saturday, after a man who had travelled to Hong Kong from Dubai initially tested positive for a mutant strain of Covid-19.

It has imposed a compulsory testing order to people who visited places that had been patronised by the two people infected with the strain on April 11, including parts of the massive Harbour City shopping complex in Tsim Sha Tsui.

"As one of the local cases with unknown sources announced yesterday involved the N501Y mutant strain, we have to conduct more extensive compulsory testing," the government said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2021, with the headline 'Hong Kong to ban flights from the Philippines, India and Pakistan'. Subscribe