UK added to high-risk list

The United Kingdom will be the first European country to go on Hong Kong's list of high-risk regions for Covid-19. That will mean people flying into Hong Kong from next Thursday must have tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of a flight. Before boarding a flight they must...

Jane Cheung

Friday, September 25, 2020

The United Kingdom will be the first European country to go on Hong Kong's list of high-risk regions for Covid-19.

That will mean people flying into Hong Kong from next Thursday must have tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of a flight.

Before boarding a flight they must also provide proof of a booking at a Hong Kong hotel for at least 14 days. That is because they will need to go into a two-week quarantine at a hotel even if they have a Hong Kong residential address.

The rules also cover arrivals from other countries who have been to Britain within the previous 14 days.

The stepped-up measures come after Britain recorded 6,208 cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday - the nation's highest daily tally since May. That took total cases to 412,245 with 41,951 deaths by yesterday.

Other anti-virus action by British authorities includes an order for pubs to close at 10pm from next Thursday.

Pubs and restaurants are also restricted to providing table services.

Face coverings have also become compulsory in more settings, and the number of people allowed at weddings has been halved from 30 to 15.

The British government also called for office staff to work from home again.

In Hong Kong, a Food and Health Bureau spokesman said Britain will remain on the high-risk list until further notice.

The 10 other countries on the high-risk list are the United States, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa.

An arriving passenger found to have given false information can be imprisoned for six months and fined up to HK$10,000.

And the responsible person in the airline that flew such a passenger to Hong Kong can also be imprisoned for six months and fined HK$50,000.

Passengers who have tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding a flight face another test at the Department of Health's facility at AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport.

Then those testing negative must move to hotels for the 14-day quarantine.

On some of those who stand to be affected - youngsters studying in Britain - education consultant Samuel Chan Sze-ming noted that primary and secondary schools in Britain have breaks of two weeks in mid-October and one month in December.

"They may choose not to come back to Hong Kong if a 14-day hotel quarantine is needed," he said.

"They may wait until the Easter holiday next year."

A Yuen Long resident who flew to Ireland via the UK last week to visit family is now looking at canceling a return flight from London's Heathrow airport and making alternative arrangements to fly from Dublin to avoid being locked down in a hotel on his return to Hong Kong.

He planned to fly from Ireland to the UK to visit his elderly mother, who lives near the coronavirus hot spot of Birmingham, but he now fears that will have to be cancelled.

"It is heartbreaking to come all this way and not be able to see my mother, who at age 85 is at high risk," he said.

And he hoped that Ireland is not added to the Hong Kong high-risk list.

Respiratory expert Leung Chi-chiu suggested the government include more European countries, including France and Spain, as high-risk regions due to recent resurgences of cases.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong yesterday reported seven new cases - six women and a man aged from 31 to 52. Four were imported cases - one from Britain and three from the Philippines - and three were linked to previous local infections.

And as the local Covid-19 situation eases, all museums will resume normal operations next Tuesday.