Monday, April 19, 2021

Covid mutant fears: Hong Kong bars India flights till May 3

New Delhi: Hong Kong has barred passenger flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 14 days from Tuesday (April 20) over Coronavirus mutant fears. Passengers who have stayed in these places for more than two hours to board a transit flight to Hong Kong have also been barred for 14 days.

These three countries “will at the same time be specified as extremely high-risk (Covid) specified places… so as to restrict persons who have stayed in these places from boarding for Hong Kong,” a Hong Kong government statement said late on Sunday night.

This special administrative region of China has a “place-specific” mechanism under which if five or more passengers from a place test positive on flights from there — irrespective of airline — in a seven-day period, that place will have passenger flights barred to Hong Kong for 14 days.

The statement quotes a government spokesman saying: “With confirmed cases involving the N501Y mutant strain detected for the first time in the community in Hong Kong, for prudence’s sake, the government has applied the criteria of the newly implemented place-specific flight suspension mechanism retrospectively for 14 days on places where there had been imported cases confirmed by arrival tests that carried the N501Y mutant strain. India, Pakistan, and the Philippines all had seven-day cumulative number of relevant cases that reached the relevant criteria in the past 14 days, and the government will therefore invoke the place-specific flight suspension mechanism for these three places.”

Hong Kong and China do not have an air bubble with India. Air India and Vistara operate special flights as per demand after getting permission to meet the requirement of the huge Indian diaspora there. The place-specific suspension mechanism for India, Pakistan and the Philippines will be effective for 14 days from midnight on April 20.

“Relevant restrictions will include the prohibition of passenger flights from these places from landing in Hong Kong, as well as… restrict any person who has stayed in these places for more than two hours on the day of boarding or 21 days before that day from boarding for Hong Kong,” the statement said.

18/04/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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