Hong Kong is banning flights from eight countries including the U.S. and U.K. for two weeks from Jan. 8, in a drastic tightening of rules as it rushes to defend against the highly infectious omicron Covid-19 variant.
The ban will last until Jan. 20 and also apply to flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The flight bans are a sharp escalation in travel curbs that have already left the city largely cut off from the world, while keeping it mostly virus-free for over seven months. The government had already suspended two dozen individual airline routes in less than six weeks, throwing holiday travel into chaos.
The latest of those specific suspensions included routes flown by Hong Kong’s embattled flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., as well as Air India Ltd., Air Canada, Thai Airways International Pcl and Philippines AirAsia.
The ban is likely to ground flights, putting a tighter squeeze on cargo capacity and airfreight costs.