Zero Covid strategy: Hong Kong cancels transit flights from 153 countries

Zero Covid Strategy
Hong Kong cancels transit flights from 153 countries

As part of its zero-Covid policy, China is running a strict regiment. Hong Kong now bans transit flights from 153 high-risk countries. The reason for this is the increasing number of omicron infections in the new year. Hardly any international flights are allowed to arrive on the mainland either.

International air traffic is being hit harder and harder by the corona pandemic, which is flaring up again around the world. Hong Kong, for example, announced that it would suspend transfer flights from around 150 countries worldwide for a month from Sunday, which are considered high-risk Covid areas. The Chinese-ruled island, like China, has a zero-Covid policy. The entry ban also affects flights from Germany and many other European countries with an increased number of infections.

The Hong Kong government is thus reacting to dozens of corona outbreaks of the omicron variant since the end of last year. According to the authorities, after three months without local infections, the disease was brought in by two crew members from Cathay Pacific Airways.

Warning of supply bottlenecks

Due to strict quarantine requirements for aircraft crews, the number of cargo flights has already fallen so much that the government has warned of supply problems and rising prices. Lufthansa Cargo continues to fly to Hong Kong with air freight, but without a longer stopover for the crews, as a spokeswoman for the Lufthansa subsidiary explained. Instead, the crew changes in India.

China suspended 30 more international flights. This applies to flights from Frankfurt and Paris in addition to connections to the USA, Canada and Australia. This means that almost no international passenger flights are allowed to arrive in China. According to the authorities, there were only 200 flights a week in September anyway – that’s two percent of the pre-crisis volume of 2019. On Thursday, Shanghai counted five cases of infection that came from the USA.

Severe restrictions in air traffic worldwide

The renewed flare-up of the pandemic worldwide worsens the prospects for international aviation in the first quarter. Unlike a few months ago, stricter travel restrictions in many countries can also affect vaccinated people, since the risk of infection has also increased for them. “There is uncertainty when you catch Covid being unpredictably stuck abroad,” said Joszef Varadi, head of Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz.

The airline has scheduled flights to the United Arab Emirates. But there is still demand for them from travelers willing to take risks. The head of the international airline association IATA, Willie Walsh, said this week that the first quarter will be more difficult than expected. Because since December the bookings have dropped.

According to data from travel researcher Forwardkeys, 38 percent of the pre-crisis level of international flights are currently being offered, after 58 percent in October. In many places, Omicron is leading to shorter deadlines for necessary corona tests before departure and also to staff shortages at airlines due to the increasing number of illnesses, explained Olivier Ponti from Forwardkeys. The latter mainly affected airlines from the USA and Australia, but also Finnair in Europe.

This week, with a minus of 7.2 percent, more flights were canceled worldwide than at any time in six months, according to the travel data provider OAG. At Lufthansa, the data collectors counted a minus of 17 percent. The airline had announced a cancellation of 33,000 flights before Christmas due to the drop in demand due to the pandemic. At Ryanair, OAG even recorded the loss of 44 percent of flight connections.

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