Hong Kong Bans All Flights from U.S. and Seven Other Countries as Omicron Spreads

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Hong Kong officials on Wednesday implemented the city’s strictest restrictions since the coronavirus was first detected two years ago, including banning all passenger flights from eight countries, as it holds firm to a “zero-covid” policy amid a growing outbreak of the omicron variant.

Hong Kong has only a handful of community infections, including six omicron cases linked to a restaurant cluster. But the harsh restrictions are in part a response to the territory’s relatively low vaccination rates, particularly among the elderly. Only about 20% of those above age 80 are fully vaccinated, according to government statistics.

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The restrictions also underscore how Hong Kong is hardening on its pandemic policy of eradicating the virus in the community at all costs, with the aim of zero new infections, even if it is leaving the international financial hub increasingly isolated and eroding its global competitiveness.

In announcing the new measures, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam described them as more “decisive and comprehensive” than any other restrictions the city has seen over the past two years. Passenger flights from the eight countries — the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan and the Philippines — had to be suspended, Lam said, because of a “drastic” increase in imported coronavirus cases.

“We are on the verge of another outbreak,” she said.

Those routes are the most heavily trafficked into and out of Hong Kong and include most of the cities where residents are returning from. The suspension will take effect Saturday and last for two weeks before it is reviewed.

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Source: The Washington Post

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