Winter ski holidays to Japan will be affected by the flight ban.
Hong Kong has found itself caught up in the tailwind of China’s sudden decision to open up despite an explosion in Covid infections across the country.
Japan and India have both imposed travel restrictions on Hong Kong arrivals as mainland China prepares to reopen its international borders as infections surge.
Hong Kong airlines banned
From Friday, Japan will only accept Hong Kong flights into four of its airports. The rest of the country, including New Chitose airport, will be out of bounds to direct flights from the SAR. The four airports that will continue to allow Hong Kong flights to land and take-off are Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports and Osaka’s Kansai and Nagoya’s Chubu airports.
Hong Kong government said it was “greatly disappointed by Japanese authorities’ hasty decision during the peak tourist season.” Chief executive John Lee has reached out to the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong to request a reversal of the decision.
The decision comes as Hong Kong finally relaxes the last of its strict travel restrictions following months of government-imposed flight suspensions, country bans and mandatory quarantine. Many airlines are yet to return to the territory after a chaotic couple of years, with Virgin announcing earlier this autumn that it would be cancelling its Hong Kong route permanently.
Flights from Hong Kong to surged in popularity when Japan dropped its last entrance restrictions this autumn. The country is a perennial favourite amongst Hong Kongers and winter sees tens of thousands of travellers fly out to enjoy Japan's snow season. Many Hong Kong residents will have booked ski holidays over the Christmas festive period and Lunar New Year holidays later next month.
Japan will permit affected airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express Airways, to fly in empty planes to the restricted airports to pick up any stranded passengers in the coming days.
From Friday Japan will require arrival tests for passengers from China, but this does not apply to travellers from Hong Kong and Macau.
Recent reports indicate that India will be making arrivals tests mandatory for arrivals from Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Anyone testing positive will be placed into quarantine. Taiwan will also be introducing screening measures for mainland arrivals, although this will not affect arrivals from Hong Kong.
China has stopped publishing Covid infection data but it is estimated the country is experiencing around a million infections and up to 5,000 deaths a day. According to BBC reports, Beijing authorities are planning to distribute Pfizer's Paxlovid tablets to reduce the severity of infections and ease the pressure on hospitals, although at the beginning of this week the drug had yet to be delivered.
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