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Hong Kong could ban transit travellers from 150 countries — how will this affect int’l students?

Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport transit bans could affect international students. Source: Anthony Wallace / AFP

Hong Kong announced a two-week ban on flights to Hong Kong International Airport from eight nations, reported by AFP. Incoming flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, and the US will be denied entry from midnight on Saturday.

Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam said health officials now fear the contagious Omicron variant was silently spreading within the community. “We have cases that have their sources identified but not the route of transmission,” she told reporters. 

Bloomberg, however, reported today that there are approximately 150 countries and territories designated as high-risk that will be banned from transiting through Hong Kong International Airport from Jan. 15, 2022 to Feb. 14, 2022, though the end date will be subject to review. The restriction is another move in the special administrative region’s attempt to shield itself from the new variant.

Bloomberg’s sources claimed officials from Hong Kong International Airport have been briefed. However, details on how the ban will operate have yet to be finalised. 

Hong Kong International Airport transit bans likely to affect international students

Hong Kong has long been regarded as a busy hub for transits from mainland China, Taiwan and several other areas in the region, as well as long hauls such as the US and the UK, said Bloomberg.

According to information on Hong Kong International Airport’s website, incoming passengers scheduled to arrive at the airport today include those from Beijing, Singapore, Dhaka, Osaka, and Ho Chi Minh.

Among the flights that are scheduled to depart or have departed the airport are heading to London, Tokyo, Auckland, Chicago, Sydney, Manila, Dubai, and Kolkata, amongst others.

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport is a busy hub for transits. Source: Isaac Lawrence / AFP

Hong Kong announced strict new anti-coronavirus controls after the Omicron variant was detected within the city. Apart from banning flights from eight nations, they are shuttering bars and gyms and canceling evening restaurant dining.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s harshest measures throughout the pandemic — its stringent border rules come with little shock due to its zero-COVID-19 policy. This is in addition to weeks-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns, and mass testing. 

The city has recorded 114 Omicron cases as of Tuesday evening, with the vast majority identified at the airport or during the 21-day hotel quarantine that is mandatory for most arrivals.

As the variant spreads, Bloomberg predicts incoming passengers from “Group A” destinations (or designated high-risk countries) to be affected by Hong Kong International Airport’s anticipated announcement. 

Group A countries include Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Palestine, Pakistan, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.

International students with upcoming layovers in Hong Kong should stay up to date on the situation by signing up for their respective airline’s text or email alerts for any flight updates.