HONG KONG, Jan 14, (AFP): Hong Kong announced a ban on passengers from most of the world transiting through its airport on Friday as China ramps up strict anti-virus travel measures ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The move deepens Hong Kong's global isolation and comes as Beijing battles to stamp out a flurry of Delta and Omicron outbreaks in the only major economy still pursuing a staunch zero-Covid strategy.
Like mainland China, Hong Kong has maintained some of the world's harshest measures throughout the pandemic-including weeks-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns and mass testing.
The Chinese business hub ranks territories into categories based on how widespread their Covid-19 infections are, with 153 countries currently classified as Group A-from which arrivals must spend 21 days in quarantine.
Hong Kong's airport, in normal times one of the world's busiest aviation hubs, said arrivals who have spent time in any of those 153 countries in the previous three weeks will be banned from transiting from Sunday.
Arrivals from eight Group A countries-Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Britain and the United States-are already banned entirely.
The city is battling a small outbreak of the Omicron variant that began with returning Cathay Pacific flight crew who breached home-quarantine rules.
It has reimposed strict social distancing rules, including closing gyms and halting restaurant dining after 6pm, and has said Cathay Pacific might face legal action.
Cathay Pacific is already flying only a fraction of its pre-pandemic routes and many of its long-haul flights transit through its home city.
Other airlines have dramatically scaled back routes to Hong Kong or started avoiding it altogether because of the quarantine rules.
But the global struggle to contain the hyper-contagious Omicron variant has only reinforced the territory's decision to stick to its zero-Covid strategy, Edward Yau, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development, said in an interview with the Financial Times.
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