Fears over a more infectious variant of Covid-19 have prompted authorities to cut key air links with Britain.
Hong Kong’s Health Secretary Sophia Chan announced yesterday that all flights to and from the United Kingdom were being suspended in response to the emergence of a more virulent strain of Covid-19 in London and southeast England, which British authorities say could be up to 70 percent more infectious. Chan also ordered recent returnees from the U.K. who are undergoing mandatory two-week quarantine inside a hotel to spend another seven days at home in self-isolation, until they test negative for the virus.
The new ban took effect at midnight last night, and all travelers who have spent at least two hours in Britain within the past 14 days, including Hong Kong residents, are now barred from the territory until further notice. Cathay Pacific has said that all flights on its London Heathrow and Manchester routes are now cancelled until January 10. Hong Kong is the first Asian jurisdiction to suspend all flights from the U.K., following in the footsteps of Canada and a slew of Britain’s neighbors in continental Europe, such as France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
India also said on Monday that it would be suspending all passenger services from Britain starting at 11:59 p.m. tonight. Its aviation ministry tweeted, “Considering the prevailing situation in UK. Govt. of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December 2020.”
Other Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have not yet announced similar flight bans, though authorities in Seoul said they were reviewing new measures and would require an additional test for arrivals from the U.K. before allowing them to leave quarantine.