Govt puts flight suspension mechanism on hold - RTHK
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Govt puts flight suspension mechanism on hold

2022-07-07 HKT 13:55
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  • Govt puts flight suspension mechanism on hold
The government on Thursday said it has put on hold its policy of banning flights to Hong Kong if an airline brings in Covid-positive passengers or those who breach anti-epidemic regulations.

Bans already imposed under the flight suspension mechanism have been withdrawn, with the administration saying the policy brought "unnecessary trouble" to SAR residents.

Under the mechanism, airlines faced a five-day flight ban if five passengers or five percent of those onboard tested positive for the coronavirus, whichever was higher, or if they failed to comply with Covid rules.

A government spokesperson said in a statement that the decision was made after a careful review of relevant data while taking into account that it is the peak season for students returning to Hong Kong from overseas.

It said dropping the flight bans will help reduce the impact on arrivals, especially allowing young people abroad to reunite with their families during the summer holiday.

The government also said that most imported Covid cases among travellers have been found in tests at the airport or in quarantine hotels, so the rules did little to keep the virus out.

However, authorities will be stepping up coronavirus screening for arrivals from Friday, requiring them to undergo an extra PCR test on the third day in quarantine.

Swami, a student studying in the UK, told RTHK that the government's decision to suspend the flight suspension mechanism is a lifesaver, as she's flying back to Hong Kong this weekend.

"I've booked my ticket in early December and I was really looking forward to go home. However, I was worried about whether the flight would be cancelled at the very last minute," she said.

"Now with the lifting of the mechanism, my family and I are relieved."

Another student in the UK, Sam, said she now has one less thing to worry about when planning her trip back to the SAR.

"There's just too much unpredictability with the flight suspension mechanism. I just wouldn't want to deal with the aftermath if my flight got cancelled," she said.

The Travel Industry Council, however, said the latest announcement will do little to boost the tourism sector, as the seven-day quarantine restriction remains in place.

"[What] we can do is just to cancel this policy permanently, and or, to cancel the seven-day quarantine requirement," one of the council's deputy chairmen, Tommy Tam, said.

Separately, Cathay Pacific said it welcomes the government's decision, saying in a statement that it will minimise the inconvenience for passengers returning to Hong Kong.

The carrier added that it is trying to add more passenger and cargo flights in view of the latest Covid measures.