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Explained: Why has Hong Kong banned passenger flights from India, again?

Hong Kong has become the second jurisdiction to restrict travellers from India after New Zealand suspended entry of travellers from here earlier this month.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: April 20, 2021 7:36:32 am
Aircraft parked at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. (Express Photo: Partha Paul, File)

The Hong Kong government late Sunday activated an “emergency circuit breaker” and banned passenger flights from India for 14 days starting April 20 over concerns of the mutated coronavirus variant being transmitted from here. Other than India, the city administration has also prohibited flights from Pakistan and the Philippines.

Hong Kong has become the second jurisdiction to restrict travellers from India after New Zealand suspended entry of travellers from here earlier this month.

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Why has Hong Kong banned flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines?

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said late Sunday in a statement that confirmed cases involving the N501Y mutant strain of coronavirus were detected for the first time in the community in Hong Kong. Also, India, Pakistan and the Philippines all had seven-day cumulative number of relevant cases that reached the relevant criteria in the past 14 days triggering the government action of suspending flights from these places.

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What was the trigger point for flight ban on India?

Earlier on Sunday, the Hong Kong administration had barred Indian carrier Vistara from flying there till May 2 after its flight from Mumbai on April 18 had three passengers who tested positive upon arrival. Furthermore, according to data from the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP), 47 passengers on Vistara’s April 4 flight from Delhi tested positive upon arrival.

The government also said the CHP was investigating 30 additional Covid-19 cases on Sunday, one of which was locally transmitted, and among the imported cases, 22 arrived from India, while others were from Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt and Canada.

Has Hong Kong done this before?

Yes, Hong Kong has imposed bans on flights from India operated by Vistara and Air India earlier as well for carrying passengers that tested positive upon arrival. Air India in particular has faced several such bans one after the another. However, the national carrier had said that it “cannot be held responsible for any lacunae on the issue of passenger test reports”.

Also, in addition to Hong Kong, jurisdictions like Canada have reported that flights from Delhi have carried passengers with coronavirus that tested positive upon arrival. This is despite a mandatory requirement by these countries for the airlines to check a negative test report before allowing a passenger to board.

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