A pandemic rule that may prevent specific airlines from flying to the territory if they transport someone who subsequently tests positive for COVID-19 has been postponed in Hong Kong.
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government acknowledged the high “social cost” of the flight bans in a statement announcing the change.
She added that suspending the mechanism would let thousands of foreign students return to Hong Kong without worrying that their flights might be canceled at the last minute.
In actuality, the Hong Kong government asserted that the regulation suspension was primarily implemented to ease the return of young adults from affluent Hong Kong families who had the means to travel and pursue higher education abroad during the pandemic.
The flight ban mechanism was initially developed to prevent airlines from “importing” a sizable number of COVID-19-infected passengers when the pandemic first started in 2020.
Once a threshold number of positive tests within a predetermined time period is reached, flight bans are imposed on particular routes. Additionally, incorrectly checking passenger papers and other violations of pandemic rules may result in airline suspension.
International airlines based outside of Hong Kong are most impacted by flight suspensions as the bans only apply to specific routes. Most flight restrictions have been issued to Cathay Pacific, a local airline, however, it was still able to run other routes at that time, unlike other airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Up until now, airlines have only been prohibited from operating flights for five days at a period, but this has long been the case. Flight restrictions were typically announced with little to no notice, which disrupted travelers’ plans to get back to Hong Kong.
Because travelers had to coordinate their flight schedules with hotel reservations for quarantine upon arrival, which were few, the bans created a great deal of disturbance.
The newly installed Hong Kong government said it was able to “halt” the flight ban policy because the mandatory hotel quarantine required of nearly all incoming international travelers was successful in identifying COVID-19 cases without cases leaking into the general population.
Passengers must undergo a daily fast antigen test during quarantine, at least six PCR tests over a 12-day period, and seven days of quarantine in a hotel room.