Hong Kong has laid out plans to resume inbound flights from the US, UK and other nations on April 1, the government said Monday.
The move comes as a surprise considering Hong Kong has held some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 restrictions and it is politically committed to maintaining a “zero Covid approach,” as mainland China has called for.
In various interviews, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has expressed that her main goal is to normalize travel to the continent, and reopening to other nations is not necessarily a step in that direction.
Back in January, authorities issued flight bans on eight countries deemed “high-risk,” including the US, the UK, France, and India; and Nepal in February.
“For any longer-term public health strategy, we will have to take into account both factors that maintain Hong Kong’s accessibility to the mainland, and also ensure a continued connectivity with the outside world,” Lam told The AP.
To maintain this “accessibility,” commercial flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be allowed to restart operations on April 1.
In addition, overseas travelers will “benefit” from a reduced 7-day hotel quarantine.
Visitors must, however, provide a negative Covid- 19 test on the 6th and 7th day of their stay before being allowed into the city.
Due to the city’s isolation, Hong Kong, dubbed “Asia’s World City,” has seen a record outflow of international and local citizens, which had affected more than 134,000 people by mid-March.
Airline executives in Asia and in the US have stated that the measures are not just having a negative impact on business but they have also begun to “rethink the need” for Hong Kong hub at all.
“A lot of airlines are thinking very hard about the future for Hong Kong — do we still need to fly to Hong Kong?” a North American airline executive said, adding that it was becoming “career suicide” to continue to advocate their head office for flights to be sent to the Asian financial hub.