The Hong Kong government asked Japan to remove a COVID-19 restriction that required passenger flights to the financial center to land only at four Japanese airports. This decision is expected to impact approximately 60,000 passengers.
After Beijing lifted its strict zero-COVID policies last month, the United States, India and Italy now have to require COVID-19 testing for all Chinese tourists. This has fueled a rise in cases throughout mainland China.
Hong Kong is home to over 7 million people and records around 20,000 coronavirus infections daily. However, the COVID restrictions were lifted for the first time in three years on Thursday.
Japan is Hong Kong’s top tourist destination. It announced that it will limit travel from Hong Kong to Macau, Macau, and mainland China, and Tokyo’s Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo airports from Friday. This decision is made during peak travel seasons and before the Lunar New Year holidays which begin on Jan. 22.
The government released a late Wednesday statement saying that approximately 250 Hong Kong outbound flights would be affected from December 30th, 2022 to January 31st, 2023. This will affect around 60,000 passengers.
John Lee, a city leader, stated that the Japanese government was disappointed by the way the government had expressed itself to it.
Lee stated, “We believe that Hong Kong citizens should have access to not only these four airports.”
The government stated that Hong Kong Airlines can continue to fly passengers from Japan to Hong Kong, so it is possible for them to return to Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, stated in a Thursday statement that it will continue operating flights to Japan. However, it will reduce the number of weekly flights by 65, down 20% from its schedule for January 2023.
Cathay owns HK Express. In a separate statement, HK Express stated that it could only operate 60 weekly scheduled flights to Japan from Hong Kong. This restriction led to 41 cancellations of flights between Hong Kong and Japan in January 2023.
Peach Aviation and Hong Kong Airlines announced that they will cancel certain flights due to the new rules.
China began to dismantle the strictest COVID system of lockdowns, extensive testing, and locking downs in December. This put its economy on track for a full reopening next year.
Following widespread protests, COVID was lifted from the market and is now spreading uncontrollably, infecting thousands of people every day according to international experts.