Hong Kong Announces New Rules for Passenger Arrivals

A two-week travel ban will be imposed on any country that contributes at least five cases of more infectious coronavirus strains within a seven-day period.

The skyscrapers of West Kowloon seen from Hong Kong Island. (Photo: Airam Dato-on/Unsplash)

Authorities in Hong Kong are planning to change the territory’s border restrictions in the coming weeks. From late this month or early May, the risk-based tiered system for places outside Greater China will be updated to include five categories. Higher-risk countries will be put into one of two groups: A1, denoting extremely high-risk places, with a total prohibition on passenger flights from the listed areas, and A2 being very high-risk.

Government officials say they expect Brazil, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom to be classified as A2 in the first half of May, signaling that a months-long ban on U.K. flights will be lifted. Hong Kong health authorities have also singled out India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines due to “numerous recent imported cases including many with the mutant virus strain,” and all four Asian countries will also be classed as very high-risk places.

It is not yet known which areas will fall into Group B (indicating high-risk) or C (medium-risk). Only three countries are currently listed in Group D, the low-risk category: Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Non-residents from these nations will be able to visit Hong Kong but must be quarantined for seven or 14 days, depending on whether they have been fully vaccinated.

In another blow to Hong Kong’s struggling aviation sector, the government has just tightened its flight suspension mechanism to keep out more infectious strains of coronavirus. If five or more travelers flying any airline from a single country test positive for a variant with the N501Y mutation within a seven-day period, a blanket 14-day travel ban will immediately be imposed. The relevant country will be classified as extremely high-risk (Group A1), and anyone who has spent more than two hours there within the past 21 days — including returning Hong Kong residents — will be denied entry.

Similarly, the number of Covid-19 cases that will trigger a temporary flight ban has just been revised to three or more passengers on a single flight (down from five or more). An airline will be barred from running passenger services to Hong Kong for 14 days if two or more travelers on any two flights from a single destination test positive for the virus within a seven-day window.

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