The Gulf carrier is not allowed to fly passengers to the territory for the remainder of this month.
Days after Hong Kong health authorities lifted a temporary suspension on its non-cargo flights from Doha, Qatar Airways has once again been penalized for bringing in too many Covid-infected travelers. It’s the third time the airline has been forced to cancel its Hong Kong–bound services in as many months; it was previously subject to a two-week flight ban from August 27 to September 9 and again from September 28 to October 11.
Starting today, the Gulf carrier will be prohibited from landing passenger flights in the territory until October 31. The latest suspension was imposed after two services on October 13 and 16 (with flight number QR818) each had two passengers who tested positive upon arrival. Genome sequencing found that all had the L452R mutation present in the more infectious Delta variant.
The four cases involved transit passengers connecting from Africa or South Asia. Two unvaccinated travelers, one from Egypt and the other from the Maldives, were found to be infected after disembarking from Flight QR818 on October 13. Three days later, a fully vaccinated person who flew in from Ghana tested positive at Hong Kong International Airport, while another passenger on the same flight, a partially vaccinated individual with travel history to Nigeria, also had the virus. According to the airline’s website, the next available Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Hong Kong is now scheduled for November 1.
In related news, there are credible reports that Qatar Airways has stopped accepting passengers on the Delhi–Doha–Hong Kong route. No official explanation has been given, but the move is likely driven by worries over the previous number of confirmed cases traced to Flight QR818 who began their journeys in India. Hong Kong’s tough rules have led other carriers to modify their policies; Singapore Airlines and Scoot discontinued transit services at Changi for Hong Kong–bound travelers earlier this year after receiving temporary bans of their own.