Hong Kong airport bans transit passengers from most of world

Hong Kong is pursuing a staunch zero-Covid policy, which creates headaches for airlines. AFP/Bertha Wang

HONG KONG - Hong Kong announced a ban on passengers from most of the world transiting through its airport on Friday as China ramps up strict anti-virus travel measures ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The move deepens Hong Kong's global isolation and comes as Beijing battles to stamp out a flurry of Delta and Omicron outbreaks in the only major economy still pursuing a staunch zero-Covid strategy.

Hong Kong's airport, in normal times one of the world's busiest aviation hubs, said arrivals who have spent time in any of those 153 countries in the previous three weeks will be banned from transiting from Sunday.

Arrivals from eight Group A countries -- Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Britain and the United States -- are already banned entirely.

Cathay Pacific is already flying only a fraction of its pre-pandemic routes and many of its long-haul flights transit through its home city.

Other airlines have dramatically scaled back routes to Hong Kong or started avoiding it altogether because of the quarantine rules. 

But the global struggle to contain the hyper-contagious Omicron variant has only reinforced the territory's decision to stick to its zero-Covid strategy, Edward Yau, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development, said in an interview with the Financial Times.

" I think no one can give you a definite timeline" for lifting restrictions on international borders this year, he told the newspaper.

It is not clear whether the transit suspension will impact the Winter Olympics in Beijing, with many athletes and officials expected to travel to China via Hong Kong in the coming days ahead of next month's opening of the Games.


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