Monday, August 24, 2020

Ban on Air India flights to Hong Kong ignores imported coronavirus cases travelling to city via connecting flights, analysis shows

Despite recent government actions aimed at preventing Air India from carrying coronavirus-positive passengers into Hong Kong, a review by the Post has found that direct flights only account for part of the issue, with connecting flights from other locales also bringing in several cases from India.
At least 44 cases imported from India have emerged since stricter public health restrictions were imposed on high-risk countries. Nineteen of the cases can be traced to a single August 14 flight operated by India’s national airline, triggering a two-week ban on Air India flights to the city by Hong Kong authorities. Five other cases were linked to an Air India flight from Delhi on August 11, and eight more were on another flight from Delhi a week before that.
But a review of the official data also found another six Covid-19 cases imported from India could be traced to Singapore Airlines flight 890 on August 5. A further analysis of travel patterns found six more such cases travelled to Hong Kong via Singapore, Doha and Kuala Lumpur in late July and the first 19 days of August, indicating the problem is not limited to direct flights from India.
The number of cases linked to these flights has slowly ticked up as passengers test positive during the city’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
An aviation specialist and a health expert have said the revelations raise questions on why only Air India had been singled out, and whether it was necessary to strengthen preflight testing requirements.
Air India was banned from operating flights to the city until the end of August when an initial 11 Covid-19 cases were detected upon arrival in Hong Kong aboard the August 14 flight. The number had risen to 19 by Saturday.
Since July 25, the Hong Kong government has required travellers from high-risk countries – including India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the United States – to secure a negative Covid-19 test with certification and validation within 72 hours of departure.
24/08/20 Danny Lee/South China Morning Post
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