Hongkongers trapped in UK seek help

Top News | Wallis Wang 4 Jan 2021

More than 180 Hongkongers stranded in Britain have sought help from the Immigration Department after the flight ban imposed by the SAR government.

Some sent a letter to the government, demanding it relax restrictions and allow them to return to the city.

The Food and Health Bureau, however, said yesterday the travel ban is vital in fighting the pandemic and should remain in place.

The government imposed flight bans from Britain on December 22 in the hope of stopping a new coronavirus strain - which is more transmissible - from entering Hong Kong.

The abrupt decision was made after similar bans by European countries stranded many Hongkongers in Britain. The letter they sent to the government said more than 70 percent of those stranded went to Britain to visit their families or deal with family emergencies.

They did not plan for long-term travel and urgently need to fly home for work.

They believe strict testing and quarantine measures in the city are enough to prevent the new strain from spreading.

Among the Asia-Pacific jurisdictions which banned flights from Britain, only Hong Kong is preventing its own residents from coming home, they said. Even the mainland government allows its citizens to return home.

They also said India will end its British flight ban on Thursday.

Air traffic can resume under strict anti-epidemic measures, they wrote, adding the government should understand their difficulties.

However, the Food and Health Bureau said the government understands the flight ban is strict and affects Hongkongers. But it is necessary to prevent the spread of the new strain in Hong Kong.

The government will continue to closely monitor global developments - including how the virus spread in certain regions - when reviewing measures targeting imported cases, it said.

So far, 12 cases involving the new strain have been found in Hong Kong, including 10 from Britain and two from South Africa. They returned to Hong Kong before the flight ban.

By Saturday morning, the Immigration Department had received about 185 calls and inquiries from Hongkongers in Britain.

The department said it had provided assistance and information to the Hong Kong residents and contacted Chinese consulates in the country to follow up on the cases.

The department will keep in touch with Hongkongers who seek help, it added.

Earlier, Kwun Tong district councillor Anthony Sheik Bux said more than 200 Hongkongers have been stranded in Britain.

They include a 38-week pregnant woman, who joined a WhatsApp group Bux created for the stranded Hong Kong residents.

He said many people in the group hope the government can arrange chartered flights for them to come home and that they are willing to pay the cost.

wallis.wang@singtaonewscorp.com



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