University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung on Thursday called on the Airport Authority to tighten anti-epidemic rules on transit passengers, after a man who was stranded at the airport for days was found with the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Speaking on Commercial Radio, Ho noted that the unvaccinated patient arrived at Chek Lap Kok on November 24 for transit, but was stuck there due to visa problems. He tested positive before he was supposed to fly out on November 27.
Ho noted it took authorities another four days to confirm he had the Omicron variant and questioned whether the process could be sped up.
He also said there’s room to tighten the vaccination requirement for transit passengers, but said the biggest problem was that the patient was not tested for days during his stay.
“If he’s stranded, at least he should be tested every day. If he’s expected to stay here for a relatively longer period, he should be sent into quarantine. If he's allowed to stay at the airport's restricted area, he’d come into contact with airport staff and other travellers and there’s risk of cross-infection,” he said.
The expert again called on people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying closing the border or stopping flights is not a long-term solution and the zero-case target is not easy to maintain.
The Airport Authority, meanwhile, issued a statement saying airlines are required to complete all transits within 24 hours or face punishment, adding it’s following up on the case with the airline concerned.
The authority said stranded passengers are required to stay in designated areas and be guarded by security officers, adding that there are no stranded passengers at the airport at present.