Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for two weeks from April 20, 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.
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.
Airlines impacted by the ban include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific.
Indian carrier Vistara’s passenger services from Delhi to Hong Kong were already suspended until April 19 after multiple cases of Covid-19 were found among passengers who disembarked from two consecutive flights, flown on March 10 and April 4.
Hong Kong’s current entry requirements are already some of the strictest in the world. Even locally based flight crews are not exempt from undergoing at least two weeks of mandatory quarantine, and most incoming travellers are required to self-isolate in a hotel room for 21 days.
The territory’s own flag carrier Cathay Pacific was recently banned from operating flights from Manila after five passengers tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival.
Other reputable global airlines serving flight bans include Emirates and KLM.
The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 29 of which were imported, marking the highest daily toll since March 15. Hong Kong has recorded more than 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths.
The authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9% 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 from 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they try to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations among residents.