**UPDATE 30/08/21 @ 14:56 UTC: Statement from Philippine Airlines added; details below.**
Turkish Airlines and Philippine Airlines are temporarily banned from flying to Hong Kong from Istanbul and Manila, respectively. The penalties follow events on August 27th that saw two flights arriving in Hong Kong with three coronavirus positive passengers each.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) shares that Philippine Airlines flight PR300 had three passengers confirmed to have COVID-19 after testing on arrival. On the same day, Turkish Airlines TK083 flew in with three other arrivals testing positive. As a result, authorities have prohibited the landing of passenger flights from the two bases of the airlines between August 29th and September 11th.
Hong Kong was one of the first territories to shut up shop following the rise of the global health crisis. Just this month, it shared that it was easing entry certain requirements after around a year and a half. However, officials still urge the limitation of travel amid this next step.
“The global situation of COVID-19 infection remains severe and there is a continuous increase in the number of cases involving mutant strains that carry higher transmissibility, and there are also reports of breakthrough infections in some vaccinated individuals,” a spokesman shared in a statement.
“The CHP strongly urged members of the public to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, in particular to specified places with high risk under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H).”
”If travel is unavoidable, the CHP highly recommended the public to be fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines before their departure. They should continue to wear a surgical mask and maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene at all times. Parents are also urged to avoid taking unvaccinated children travelling.”
Below is part of a statement provided by Philippine Airlines to Simple Flying:
“Philippine Airlines passenger flights from Hong Kong to Manila continue to operate every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to our planned schedules. In the other direction, while PAL will not be able to carry passengers from Manila to Hong Kong up to September 11 to comply with the restriction, we will continue to operate all-cargo flights into Hong Kong.“Please note that all our three passengers (2 Filipinos and 1 Chinese national) presented negative covid 19 test results when they checked in for their PR300 flights. Passengers affected by the ban may rebook, refund or convert their tickets into a travel voucher. Rebooking and refund service fees are waived.”
The HK government is now classifying countries by high, medium, and low risk. Notably, both Turkey and the Philippines are currently in the high-risk group. Travelers flying in from countries in this section generally have to be Hong Kong residents, be fully vaccinated, and have to provide a negative PCR result. They also have to quarantine in designated accommodation for 21 nights.
Hong Kong flight bans have been a regular occurrence since the rise of the pandemic. For instance, Air India faced several bans due to flying multiple virus-positive passengers to the city. Other airlines also received bans for similar reasons, including Singapore Airlines. Even Hong Kong’s own Cathay Pacific was temporarily banned from operating its Manila route.
Nonetheless, even as the special administrative region relaxes its requirements to enter the country, it is showing that it is taking no prisoners when it comes to errors. The area will be keen to prevent another significant wave like the one it saw at the turn of the year.
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The new climate
Overall, the pandemic will continue to rock airline operations. Passengers will notice a long-term impact. For instance, Qantas, which was a key operator in Hong Kong, this week shared that it won’t reopen its lounge at Hong Kong International after it returns to a more regular schedule next year. It is a completely new era, and airlines will continue to have a duty to be vigilant across their services.
What are your thoughts about Turkish Airlines and Philippine Airlines receiving these bans from Hong Kong? What do you make of the measures in place? Let us know what you think of the overall situation in the comment section.