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HK to ban all flights from Britain from midnight tonight

21 December 2020

By The SUN 

About 6k students are expected to fly home from the UK over the holidays 


Hong Kong will suspend all flights from Britain starting at midnight tonight because of a more infections strain of the coronavirus was discovered in the country, throwing Christmas plans of many returning residents in disarray.

The unprecedented move was announced this afternoon by Health Secretary Prof Sophia Chan, who said the ban will remain until further notice. She said it was a serious decision that had to be made to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus strain.

“We have never imposed such stringent measures on a place before. But we think that the mutated virus strain in Britain could be coming, menacingly, and we must block the spread of the mutated strain at the source,” Chan said.

She explained the Department of Justice had been consulted about the surprise move.

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In addition, all travelers who have already entered Hong Kong from Britain will have to spend an additional week in quarantine, although they can isolate at home after spending the 14 days in a hotel.

The extended quarantine will last until the returnee has tested negative for the virus on the 19th or 20th day after arrival.

The third test is also required of all arriving travelers, but those who did not come from Britain need not isolate again after finishing the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.

One of the hotels used for the mandatory quarantine

The highly transmissible mutated coronavirus strain, VUI-202012/01, was first detected in Britain in September and is 70 per cent more infectious. However, Director of Health Dr Constance Chan said the new variant had not yet been found so far from those returning from the United Kingdom.


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Despite this, local health experts had called on the government to either extend quarantine for arrivals or ban flights altogether, fearing the fourth wave of infection in Hong Kong could surge even more. An estimated 9,000 students were expected to return to Hong Kong for the holidays.

European countries Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, plus Canada, have already stopped all flights from Britain.

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Cathay said in an advisory issued tonight that it will cancel all its flights to and from London until Jan 10. British Airways had already been stopped from flying into Hong Kong for two weeks from Dec 11, after four passengers on its flight that arrived that day tested positive on arrival, while one was allowed to fly despite not complying with pre-boarding requirements.

Noted microbiologist Ho Pak-leung has warned during a radio interview that it would be worrying if the new Covid-19 strain spreads in Hong Kong. Already, about 22 percent of the 1,900 imported cases recorded in Hong Kong so far had come from Britain.


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Meanwhile, all existing gathering restrictions, such as limiting the number of people who can dine together in restaurants to two, and shutting down dine-in services after 6pm, and closing most entertainment venues such as bars, theaters, cinemas and sport facilities, will continue for another week, or until Jan 6.

Prof Chan warned the rules may be tightened further if people continue to flout social distancing measures.

 

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