The first mutant strains of coronavirus have been detected in the Hong Kong wider community.
Hong Kong is to ban flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 14 days after a second case of a mutant Covid-19 strain was recorded in the city. Each of the three countries has had five or more arrivals infected with a mutant strain within seven days.
There were 30 new coronavirus cases recorded on Sunday April 18, 29 of which were imported from the three places. All arrivals from India, Pakistan and the Philippines will now be banned from entering Hong Kong from Tuesday April 20 and these countries designated as 'extremely high risk'.
Arrivals from the three nations who are currently in hotel quarantine will be ordered to take a further test on the 26th day after arrival in the city.
A Vistara flight from Delhi which landed in Hong Kong on April 4 is at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak; 47 passengers in total tested positive for Covid-19 and 22 were uncovered in quarantine. It is unclear how these passengers contracted the virus given that all arrivals into Hong Kong are tested at the airport and must have received a negative result before being able to move into hotel quarantine. Officials are investigating whether passengers were incubating the virus when they arrived or whether they picked it up in quarantine.
And two infections involving a mutant strain of the virus have now been detected in the wider community for the first time. The first case involved a traveller from Dubai who landed in the city on March 19 and finished quarantine on April 8 after testing negative. He tested positive after taking a departure test in order to leave Hong Kong. On Sunday, a friend of the man was also found to be infected with the same mutant strain. Eighty residents of the Jordan building in which the man was living have now been sent to government quarantine for 21 days.
Sophia Chan, Hong Kong's secretary for Food & Health said authorities were "very concerned". She said the man could have been infected in Dubai and then incubated the strain over an unusually long period of time. Alternatively he could have been infected in the airport or quarantine hotel. She called for Hong Kongers to get vaccinated.
Hong Kong's vaccination roll-out has got off to a stuttering start; since it launched in February just 719,900 people have received a first dose and 371,200 are fully vaccinated out of a population of seven-and-a-half million.
Hong Kong is now operating a number of flight bans, including all arrivals from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, as well as temporary airline suspensions for Emirates, KLM and Scoot for flights from Dubai, Amsterdam and Singapore.