Hong Kong is to ban all flights from the UK to curb the spread of the Delta variant of Covid.
The UK is to be classified as an “extremely high-risk” country, the highest rating Hong Kong has for pandemic travel.
The ban will come into effect on 1 July and affect all incoming passenger flights from Britain.
It also comes amid political tensions between China and the West over a crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.
The ban means people who’d recently spent more than two hours in Britain wouldn’t be allowed to board flights to Hong Kong from any airport.
The city’s authorities said the decision was based on the “recent rebound” of the pandemic in the UK and the “widespread Delta variant virus strain” in the country.
There are around 8 daily non-stop flights from the UK to Hong Kong, all flying out of London.
Flights outbound from Hong Kong to the UK are not affected by the upcoming ban.
Record spike in the UK
Despite high vaccination rates, the UK is currently seeing Europe’s highest number of daily new cases by far. Most of the new infections are linked to the Delta variant, first detected in India.ADVERTISEMENT
Hong Kong however confirmed its first local Delta variant only last week, ending a 16-day streak of zero local cases.
The city has had some of the strictest border curbs in the world since 2020, which helped to keep infections numbers low throughout the entire pandemic.
Officials said the city recently recorded a growing number of Delta variant cases in people arriving from the UK, who like all incoming travellers have to quarantine.
According to news agency Reuters, parents in Hong Kong with children who are studying in the UK have reacted with shock that they would now be stranded abroad.
The 1 July flight ban is the second time Hong Kong has stopped arrivals from Britain after a ban from December 2020 until May of this year.
Hong Kong already bars flights from several other countries over rising cases of the Delta strain, including Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The new ban comes amid rising tensions over Hong Kong’s recent pressure on opposition media and dissenting voices under a controversial national security law.
The UK government said it “restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration”.