Hong Kong has suspended a rule that banned individual flights for bringing in passengers infected with the COVID-19 virus, as it caused “unnecessary trouble” and inconvenience to residents of the global financial hub, the government said on Thursday.
The city has banned more than 100 flights this year. The bans were a major frustration for businesses and residents used to easy and efficient travel from the former British colony. Its removal paves the way for many residents to return home, with scores stranded overseas due to the flight bans.
“The social cost caused by the ‘circuit breaker mechanism’ is quite large, and it also brings unnecessary trouble to these international students and their families,” the government said in a statement.
Previously, airlines would be banned for five days if they brought in more than five people infected with the coronavirus. Earlier this year flights were banned for up to two weeks, making it difficult for airlines to operate.
All arrivals are still required to quarantine for at least one week in a hotel.
The government said it was looking to “improve” quarantine arrangements, “to facilitate the movement of people necessary for social and economic recovery”.
Measures such as the flight bans and mandatory hotel quarantine have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, said business executives who are hoping the city’s new leader, John Lee, will scrap the quarantine rules.
Lee needs to reboot the city, eight business leaders said, because Hong Kong’s border has effectively been sealed since 2020 and international arrivals are subject to stringent quarantine and testing protocols.