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Hong Kong to relook at UK flight ban

Hong Kong Airport could soon be welcoming arrivals from the United Kingdom.

Hong Kong has confirmed today that it is to relook at the UK flight ban and is “exploring arrangements that could facilitate residents’ direct return to Hong Kong (from the United Kingdom).”

Many Hong Kong residents have been stuck in Britain since the Hong Kong government banned direct flights from London over the Christmas period. The United Kingdom was placed in the stringent ‘Group A’ category of countries, which means residents must have been outside of the United Kingdom for 21 nights before they are permitted to re-enter Hong Kong.

But with tumbling infections and more than 24 million residents now having received at least their first jab, a re-look at the flight ban is surely well overdue.

Hong Kong’s main concern has been the British-detected variant, which is more contagious than the original Covid variant.

However, in today’s statement, the government notes, “Since late December last year, the number of newly confirmed cases in the UK, where the majority of the affected Hong Kong residents are situated, has fallen... We also noted that over 24 million people in the UK, or one third of the population, have received at least the first dose of vaccine.”

According to UK government data, the country as a whole is currently recording around 4,500 new cases a day and some regions are reporting zero or negligible new cases.

Quite what the new stipulations for return from the United Kingdom will be remains to be seen. But in the meantime, more destinations are opening up to those wanting to plan their return now. It’s not ideal, but at least the options are increasing.

Today's full statement can be viewed here.

(Please note that international travel from the United Kingdom is currently banned. Travellers must carry documentation explaining their reason for travel. More details online).

Cyprus - from May 1

Cyprus will be opening to vaccinated British arrivals from the beginning of May. The vaccine must be approved by the European Union (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) and both doses must have been administered at least seven days before travel.

Dubai - open now

Dubai has been open to international travellers since last summer. Arrivals must hold a negative Covid-19 certificate taken within 96 hours of travel.

Egypt - open now

Egypt has also been open to international travellers throughout the winter and has proved a relatively popular route back to Hong Kong. All arrivals must carry a negative PCR certificate taken within 72 hours of travel, although that rises to 96 hours for arrivals from London’s Heathrow.

Estonia - open now

To avoid quarantine, travellers need to either prove that they have had Covid and been declared cured less than six months before travel or have had a Covid vaccination within the last six months.

France - open now

France has lifted restrictions and travellers from Britain who are now allowed entry without having to provide evidence of a ‘compelling reason for travel’.

According to French tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Leymoyne, France has made this decision because the “UK variant now also circulates widely in France”. Possibly a reason for the Hong Kong government to revisit its ‘Group A’ list so Hong Kongers can avoid circuitous routes back home via countries with higher levels of infections.

Arrivals must have a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Greece - from May 17

Greece will be welcoming British arrivals from May 17 (this is the date the UK international travel ban is due to be lifted).

Travellers must be able to provide evidence they have been vaccinated, or that they have had a previous Covid infection, or that they have had a negative Covid test result taken within 72 hours of travel.

Maldives - open now

The Maldives has been welcoming all international guests for quite some time now. Arrivals must carry a negative Covid-19 certificate and individual resorts may have their own additional restrictions, so check before booking.

Seychelles - from March 25

Seychelles is looking to achieve herd immunity (that’s to say, 70% of the population vaccinated) by mid-March. This is an enormous achievement and the country is now looking forward to welcoming all international arrivals, regardless of vaccination status, from the end of March.

Spain - from mid-May

Spain announced today that it will be reopening to mass tourism once the country has vaccinated between 30 and 40% of its adult population, which it hopes will be achieved in May.

According to tourism minister Reyes Maroto, the country could also be in a position to apply the European Union’s Digital Green Pass system by mid-May.

Sri Lanka - open now

Sri Lanka opened this winter to all arrivals bar those from the United Kingdom, however the country has since declared that arrivals from Britain are also now welcome. Travellers must bring a negative Covid certificate and can only stay in government approved hotels - although they will not be quarantined as such and are free to use all hotel facilities and exit the hotel. They must also submit to further testing during their stay.

Tanzania - open now

The government has removed mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements for arrivals, as well as the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test.

However, Tanzania does require arrivals to undergo temperature screening and if they show symptoms, enhanced screening will be undertaken followed by a Covid test and possible 14-day isolation.

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