Hong Kong's new government announced on Thursday the suspension of flight bans on airlines disembarking passengers positive for COVID-19, deeming this measure "not very effective".
So far, any airline that disembarked five or more COVID-19-positive passengers was fined the first time and banned from flying to Hong Kong for five days the next time.
This so-called “circuit breaker” mechanism, invented a year ago by the previous government of Carrie Lam as part of the “zero COVID” policy in force in Hong Kong, was lightened last April: the ban on flight was previously two weeks.
The new Hong Kong government led by John Lee announced Thursday the suspension of the device in order "to obtain the best results in the fight against the pandemic with the least cost for society".
“At this point, continuing the circuit breaker mechanism is not very effective in preventing imported cases,” the executive added. "A large number of passengers are seeing their routes disrupted due to the mechanism, and while the supply of plane seats and quarantine hotel rooms is insufficient, the social cost generated will be remarkably high," he said. he continued.
Hong Kong continues to impose seven days of quarantine on new arrivals in dedicated hotels, which are all full months in advance.
The no-fly mechanism was harshly criticized by the transport industry, which fears that Hong Kong could permanently lose its status as a global air traffic hub.
In 2022, more than 100 flight bans were imposed in total on airlines that carried infected passengers, even as COVID-19 became endemic in Hong Kong after a strong epidemic outbreak at the beginning of the year. year.
The reopening of Hong Kong both to mainland China and to the rest of the world is one of the priorities displayed by John Lee, who took office on July 1. But it's unclear how these two goals could be achieved at the same time, with China continuing to practice a strict "zero COVID" policy while most other countries have opted to live with the virus.