Hong Kong International Airport will no longer allow air transit passengers from countries designated as high-risk, including Thailand, as part of the city’s aggressive effort to protect itself from the Omicron variant of covid-19.
Officials from the airport recently briefed carriers on the plan, according to sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the details.
According to one of the sources, the suspension will begin on Jan 15 and run until Feb 14, though the end date may be revised. Another said a detailed outline of the ban’s operation needs to be developed.
Despite low traffic volumes now due to the pandemic, the move is likely to adversely affect Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, which handles the vast majority of passenger transfers.
Hong Kong, prior to Covid-19, was a hub for transits from mainland China, Taiwan and several other countries in the region, as well as long hauls such as from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The city has been enforcing a zero-tolerance Covid policy in the face of a relatively small Covid outbreak in the community. The government announced Tuesday that in-person classes at kindergartens and primary schools would be suspended from Friday until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
Hong Kong’s Group A list includes 150 nations and territories, including eight nations that have specific flight bans in place due to Covid cases on board. The eight countries are Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United States.
In March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, Hong Kong prohibited all passenger airport transfers. However, flights into mainland China gradually resumed thereafter. Despite the severe travel restrictions during the Covid crisis, Cathay has reported healthy demand for transit flights.
Those participating in the Winter Olympics in Beijing will not be affected by the suspension of passenger transfer services. The Winter Olympics begin on February 4th.
The Airport Authority Hong Kong said in an emailed statement that it is in close communication with the airport community about measures to reinforce infection control at the airport.
A number of nations in Group A are traditionally popular transit routes for Hong Kong, including Singapore, Australia and several European nations.