After issuing new COVID-19 travel rules over the weekend, reports are coming in that Hong Kong is extending its strict travel ban to anyone who has been in Brazil or Ireland during the past 21 days. The move follows the introduction of a ban earlier in January on flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa to stop a new, more virulent strain of the coronavirus from entering China’s Special Administrative Region.
While describing the current COVID-19 situation in the United Kingdom as “grim,” the HONG KONG FREE PRESS quotes the Hong Kong government as saying,
“The epidemic situation worldwide remains severe, with cases of the more transmissible new virus variant detected in an increasing number of places.
“The situation in the UK, where the new virus variant was first discovered, has further deteriorated in the past two weeks. England is under lockdown again until mid-February, and the outlook in the short term is grim.”
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Infections are coming down
Currently, the UK government is struggling to contain the virus with new lockdown measures, although they seem to be working. A week ago, the UK reported two consecutive days where more than 60,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. This figure has been steadily coming down, with less than 40,000 new cases reported on Sunday. This is leading many to suggest the infections have begun to plateau in large parts of the country.
Unlike other parts of Europe, where vaccinating the population has gotten off to a slow start, the UK has already vaccinated 4.2 million people. It also intends to start vaccinating people around the clock in the coming weeks. However, one worry is that people start to think that the vaccine is a magic cure-all and begin to flout the rules. The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) calls for a public awareness campaign telling the public that they can still pose a risk to others even if they have been vaccinated.
Regarding South Africa, the country’s health services are struggling to deal with a new strain of the coronavirus that has seen more than 130,000 new infections in the past week. The new variant of the virus called 501.V2 is believed to be more transmissible and has been found in all nine provinces.
At the time of the flight ban, the Hong Kong authorities defended their decision saying that the flight ban was imposed to protect people from more infectious mutations of the COVID-19 virus.
“We simply cannot afford to relax the relevant restrictions at this juncture, lest the anti-epidemic efforts of the entire community go down the drain.”
Brazil and Ireland join the travel ban list
South China Morning Post senior reporter Danny Lee broke the news of the Ireland and Brazil travel ban on Twitter, saying:
NEW: HONG KONG BARS ENTRY TO ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN IN IRELAND AND BRAZIL IN THE PAST 21 DAYS, AND WILL BE FORBIDDEN TO FLY TO HONG KONG – IN EFFECT FROM SATURDAY
— G-DLEE AVIATION 2020 (@JournoDannyAero) January 19, 2021
The number of people infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong jumped back into triple figures yesterday, with the former British Colony reporting 107 cases citywide. This was the highest number of cases since 109 were detected on December 19th. When reporting on the new spike in cases, Bloomberg says that in a weekly news briefing early today, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said:
“This shows that we still have transmission chains across the territory,” Lam said. “So what we need to do now is join hands and curb transmissions as much as possible.”
Hong Kong bans its own citizens
Lam also said that the Asian financial hub would see new restrictions to help battle the rise in infections, including the ban on people entering the country from coronavirus hotspots like Ireland and Brazil. Unlike many other countries with COVID-19 travel bans, Hong Kong goes a step further by not allowing its nationals and residents to return home from countries on the travel ban list.
With no direct flights from either Ireland or Brazil to Hong Kong, it’s hard to believe that banning people who have been in those counties will have much of an effect. However, it shows that Hong Kong will take all measures possible to eradicate the virus in its territory.
What do you think about the new Ireland and Brazil travel ban? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.