Hong Kong authorities on Friday announced a month-long ban on transit flights from more than 150 countries and territories to contain the transmission of the highly-contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Under the new notice, passengers who have stayed in these 150 places deemed “high risk” in the last 21 days will not be allowed into the city from 16 January to 15 February. The US and the UK are among the territories that are considered high risk.
The ban comes as the city grapples to contain Covid-19 infections. Over 50 local infections have been reported in the community since the end of 2021. Hong Kong did not report a single case of community transmissions in the three months prior to that.
Most Omicron clusters have been traced back to Cathay Pacific aircrew members who are reported to have introduced the variant in the community after they broke isolation rules and dined at restaurants and bars in the city before testing positive for the infection.
The outbreak has led to a dramatic tightening of already strict social distancing norms and travel restrictions with the city announcing the imposition of a two-week ban on flights from US, Canada, Australia, France, Britain, India, Pakistan and the Philippines last week.
Hong Kong, which like China maintains a strict zero-Covid strategy, also announced the extension of the restrictions on social life till the Lunar New Year holiday at the start of February.
It has banned dining in after 6 pm and has ordered museums, cinemas, clubs, gyms, libraries and beauty salons to remain closed for another two weeks after their current order to shutter expires next Thursday. Primary schools and kindergartens will also remain shut.
“I know this will let a lot of people down,” said Carrie Lam, the territory’s leader. “Covid is not yet under control.”
Additional reporting by agencies