Cathay Pacific Suspends Flights from Jakarta

Hong Kong has slapped its home airline with a two-week ban on the route after several passengers from the same flight were found to have Covid-19.

Cathay Pacific operates Jakarta–Hong Kong flights with Airbus A350-900s. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Health authorities in Hong Kong have not shied away from penalize aviation companies for bringing in small numbers of people infected with the novel coronavirus. Last Friday, three travelers aboard Cathay Pacific flight CX798 from Jakarta tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival, triggering an immediate suspension of the airline’s passenger flights from the Indonesian capital until June 25. Services from Hong Kong to Jakarta remain unaffected and will operate as usual. Earlier this month, Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia was forced to halt its own flights from Jakarta to Hong Kong for 14 days for the same reason; the prohibition will be lifted at midnight on Wednesday (June 16).

Even before the three cases from Jakarta were announced on Saturday, Indonesia was already the source of 24 imported coronavirus cases detected in Hong Kong over the past month, far more than second-place countries India and the UAE, which both contributed five cases each. This has raised the question of whether Indonesia will be moved from Hong Kong’s “high-risk” classification for Covid-19 transmission to the “very high-risk” (joining Ireland) or “extremely high-risk” categories. Places grouped under the latter include Brazil, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa; a total ban on passenger flights from these six countries is in effect to keep out more infectious coronavirus variants. Anyone who has been in these areas for more than two hours within 21 days of their planned arrival, including Hong Kong residents, are barred from entering the territory.

Indonesia is now experiencing an alarming surge of infections in the wake of the Eid al-Fitr holidays, when millions of workers in major cities flouted travel restrictions to return to their hometowns in the countryside. Jakarta’s largest coronavirus hospital, converted from the high-rise Athletes’ Village built for the 2018 Asian Games, has seen its bed occupancy rate soar from 15.02% on May 18 to 80.29% yesterday morning; similarly sharp increases are being recorded in other metropolitan areas such as Bandung. The past few days have seen the highest numbers of daily Covid-19 cases since late February; the country’s health ministry reported just under 10,000 newly confirmed coronavirus infections on Sunday.

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