Bloomberg News is reporting that Hong Kong will ban air passengers from so-called Group A, or designated high-risk countries, from transiting through Hong Kong International Airport, citing people familiar with the matter. The move comes just as the Hong Kong government announced it was closing some schools to in-person learning after outbreaks of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. Airport officials recently briefed carriers about the plan, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t yet public. The suspension will start on 15 January and run through 14 February, although the end date will be subject to review, one of the people said. Procedures for how the ban will operate are still to be laid out, another person said, according to the Bloomberg report.
Hong Kong and its airport along with flag carrier Cathay Pacific have been hit particularly hard by not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also by civic unrest and protests starting around 2019. Hong Kong, like mainland China, is also pursuing a “zero-COVID” strategy, hoping to stamp out the spread of the virus. That policy has led Hong Kong and China to implement some of the most stringent quarantine measures in the world that in turn has largely driven air passengers to avoid Hong Kong altogether.
There are around 150 countries and territories in Hong Kong’s Group A list, including the eight nations that have specific route flight bans in place due to Covid cases on board. Those eight are Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, the U.K. and the U.S. Countries in the Group A bloc also include traditionally popular Hong Kong transit routes, including Singapore, Australia and a raft of European nations. The suspension on passenger transfer services won’t apply to diplomats, government officials and athletes and staff participating in the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to the Bloomberg report.