HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong will ban all passenger flights from Britain starting Thursday (July 1), labeling the country “extremely high risk” just as it loosens entry requirements for people travelling from most other parts of the world.
“From 0.00am on July 1 (Hong Kong time), all passenger flights from the UK will be prohibited from landing,” the government said in a statement on Monday.
The decision was made “in view of the recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread delta variant virus strain there, coupled with a number of cases with L452R mutant virus strains detected by tests from people arriving from the UK,” it said.
Only a handful of other countries are in Hong Kong’s highest risk category: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa.
Britain was on Hong Kong’s extremely high-risk category from December to May, but then lowered to very high risk as its outbreak eased.
While cases are on the rise again in Britain, the move comes amid political tensions between China and Britain over Beijing’s crackdown on dissent and media freedom in the former British colony. The British government has repeatedly said China has breached the Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover in 1997.
Hong Kong has put in place some of the strictest border curbs in the world to keep its infection numbers low. Those will be loosened for all but the highest risk places this week, when mandatory hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated people arriving in the city will be dropped to seven days from as long as 21.
The strict quarantine regime has been a source of public anger. Travellers who are eligible to enter have to book their own hotel rooms, which can be costly for lengthy stays, and they are being reserved quickly over the summer period.
Despite ample availability of Covid-19 vaccines, only 19 per cent of Hong Kong’s population has been fully inoculated, Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker shows.