Starting Saturday, Hong Kong will prohibit passenger flights from Nepal from landing in its airport as part of an increased tightening of its flight suspension mechanism criteria, said the city’s government in a statement on Thursday (29 Apr).
Under the mechanism, if a total of five or more passengers across all flights from the same place were tested positive with the new N501Y mutant strain of COVID-19 within a seven-day period, the Hong Kong government has the authority to ban all passenger flights from the place for 14 days.
Nepal has been classified as extremely high-risk by the Hong Kong government, which means that travellers who have stayed there for over two hours are restricted from arriving in Hong Kong via transit.
India, Pakistan and the Philippines have also similarly been classified as extremely high-risk and are subsequently subject to the ban imposed by the Hong Kong government.
The ban will take effect at 00.00 am local time on Saturday.
The place-specific flight suspension mechanism was first implemented on 14 Apr.
If a total of 10 or more passengers were confirmed positive by any tests — including tests conducted during quarantine — with the N501Y mutant strain or relevant virus mutation within a seven-day period, the flight suspension mechanism would also be triggered, said the Hong Kong government.
A government spokesperson said that the tightened flight suspension mechanism “is an essential measure in protecting Hong Kong’s public health” as a “more targeted measure in stopping the importation of the virus into Hong Kong at the source”.
Nepali Times reported last week that Indian nationals employed abroad or who are visiting their families abroad have been using the capital city of Kathmandu as a transit point to places that have imposed a ban on direct flights from India, including Hong Kong and Singapore.
In its article dated 21 Apr, it was stated that nearly 400 Indian workers depart from Kathmandu daily to the two cities, as well as Saudi Arabia and other countries after spending two weeks in hotels in Nepal’s largest city.
Between 1 to 18 Apr, 5,250 Indian nationals had reportedly flown out of Tribhuvan Kathmandu Airport (TIA), according to Nepali Times.
The Indian embassy in Nepal later issued an advisory against Indian nationals transiting to other countries via Nepal due to the restrictions imposed on such travel by Nepal’s Immigration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The restriction, which took effect on Wednesday (28 Apr) and will continue indefinitely until further notice, does not affect inbound and outbound flights to and from Nepal for travellers making the country their final port of embarkation and disembarkation.
Hong Kong reported its first untraceable local infections of the N501Y mutant strain on Thursday involving a 39-year-old domestic helper and a 10-month baby girl living with her in a residential building of Tung Chung, according to Xinhua Agency.