Hong Kong bars some flights due to Omicron cases

Airlines around the world, including Cathay, had to ground thousands of planes at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday (5 January) that it was barring flights from eight countries and implementing other restrictions after cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus appeared to be on the rise.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing that the eight countries from which no flights will be allowed to land for the next two weeks are Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK and the US, places with the worst omicron spread currently, Lam said. The flight ban takes effect on Saturday and will be in place until 21 January.

The latest flight bans come about a week after Hong Kong flag carrier announced that new quarantine rules affecting flight crews would force it to make “significant changes” to its flight schedule, including cancellations of passenger and cargo flights to and from Hong Kong. Hong Kong health authorities force Cathay’s hand with the new quarantine rules for air cargo crew to tackle the growing threat of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Cathay Pacific did not say how many flights would be cancelled in and out of Hong Kong but that the cancellations would begin immediately and that the airline planned to operate a skeleton passenger flight schedule in January. In a separate announcement, the airline added that long haul freight and cargo-only passenger flights, including from Europe, Riyadh and Dubai will be suspended for seven days, up to 6 January.

Hong Kong authorities earlier took Cathay Pacific to task over breaches of COVID-19 restrictions with Lam expressing “strong dissatisfaction” during a meeting with the airline’s chairman and chief executive. “Some crew members did not comply with requirements to undergo three days of isolation at home,” the city’s health minister Sophia Chan told a press conference. “The chief executive has expressed that these violations are totally unacceptable.”

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