Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor confirmed that there is no plan to lift the ban on international flights and travellers from nine countries until the fifth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic is under control in the city.
Currently, all passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK and the USA are not allowed into Hong Kong till April 20. In addition, anyone who has stayed in these places for more than two hours within 14 days of their planned arrival into Hong Kong is barred from entering the city.
“Hong Kong is right at the most critical juncture of fighting the epidemic. At least one country has put us on the highest level of alert forewarning their citizens not to come to Hong Kong,” said Lam at a press conference on March 10, referring to the city’s recent inclusion in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest-risk Level 4 category for travel.
Lam added that if travel restrictions on this country were lifted, “A lot of people will rush to come back and inevitably some of those people will be infected cases. There may even be critically ill cases arising from the returns. And that will add a lot of pressure to our public hospital system.” The CE also cited the example of a recent “single flight (on which) there were over 20 infected cases on arrival”, referring to a passenger flight from Jakarta on which 23 travellers tested positive when they arrived in Hong Kong.
However, Lam reiterated that there is a plan to ease travel restrictions once the current Omicron-fuelled fifth wave of the pandemic is under control. “We have plans after controlling this fifth wave and preferably having a Compulsory Universal Test will enable us to eliminate any remaining infections in society. We will certainly have plans or a pathway to open up Hong Kong again for our own people and for international travel,” she said.