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HK’s flight bans may last beyond 14 days

30 April 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

HK now says there will be no automatic lifting of the flight ban after 14 days

Hong Kong has removed the 14-day limit to the flight suspension it imposed on the Philippines, Pakistan and India on Apr 20, amid fears the highly infectious coronavirus variant has begun to spread in the community.

Nepal has also just been added to the list of places where flights to Hong Kong have now been suspended indefinitely, after a record 13 new arrivals from the country were found to have Covid-19 on Thursday.


A government statement issued late Thursday said that “due to the need to review the epidemic situation of the place concerned, the flight suspension mechanism will not be lifted automatically.”

The statement said the government will conduct “risk assessments” of each place every two weeks, and will take into consideration such factors as the prevailing epidemic situation, the vaccination rate and the prevalence of new virus variants, before deciding whether it is appropriate to lift the flight suspension.

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The new development is likely to cause further anguish to thousands of Filipinos who have been hoping for the flight suspension to be lifted, particularly domestic workers who had waited for weeks, even months, to take up jobs in Hong Kong.

According to Labour Secretary Law Chi-kwong’s recent estimate, between 500 and 800 Filipino DHs would have been affected by a two-week ban.


But with the Philippines’ infection rate now at an all-time high, it is not likely that the hoped-for lifting of the ban on May 4 would happen. 

The Philippines' surging infection does not bode well for the lifting of HK's ban

Hong Kong earlier announced that it would stop flights from the Philippines, India and Pakistan for 14 days starting Mar 20, in line with its “circuit breaker mechanism” under tightened travel restrictions.

The flight ban on Nepal will start on May 1.

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All four countries have also been moved to the “extremely high risk” category, which means anyone who had stayed in these places for more than two hours in the past 21 days, including those in transit, are prohibited from boarding a flight to Hong Kong.

Previously, the same restrictions were imposed on flights from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and Ireland, where various strains of the mutated virus were first found.

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Under the tightened regulations, the ban is triggered when a total of five or more passengers arriving on any flights from the same place, test positive for the N501Y mutant strain on arrival in Hong Kong within a seven-day period.

The rule has been adjusted to include “other relevant virus mutation which may potentially pose similar risks to Hong Kong's public health will also be considered.”

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In addition, “if a total 10 or more passengers were confirmed positive by any tests (including tests conducted during quarantine) with the N501Y mutant strain or relevant virus mutation within a seven-day period, the flight suspension mechanism would also be triggered,” said the statement.

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