Vistara has this weekend set a new record, but it’s not one that the airline will be proudly sharing around. A massive 47 passengers on a flight to Hong Kong tested positive for COVID, despite requirements to test before travel. India has now been banned from flying to the city.
Hong Kong’s COVID success
Hong Kong has maintained a low level of COVID infections, largely due to its strict criteria for arrivals. Only residents or those meeting a few specific exemptions are allowed to enter. Even then, they must follow a strict testing and quarantine process before being allowed to move freely around Hong Kong.
Passengers who are allowed to travel to Hong Kong must have a PCR test within 72 hours of travel. On arrival, they must undergo additional testing and stay in a government-mandated quarantine facility at their own expense for 21 days.
Despite these strict requirements, some cases are still slipping through. In June last year, an Emirates 777-300ER brought 26 COVID-positive passengers to Hong Kong. A further four tested positive later, most of whom had arrived via Dubai from Pakistan. Now, that record number has been exceeded by an Indian airline.
Vistara’s record-breaking flight
Vistara’s flight 6395 from Delhi to Hong Kong, operated by an A321neo, had 188 seats on it. While it flew relatively light on passengers, given the restrictions in place, those who did fly had taken a PCR test prior to boarding. The tests had all come back negative.
On arrival in Hong Kong, the passengers entered the mandatory quarantine as normal. Six reportedly tested positive at the airport. However, soon after, more passengers began testing positive.
A total of 25 passengers tested positive for COVID to the end of last week. On day 12 of the quarantine period, all travelers were tested again. Incredibly, 22 more passengers tested positive.
This brings the total positive passengers to an astounding 47, the most ever recorded on a flight to Hong Kong. A seat map of positive cases shared online shows a cluster in the middle of the economy section, but also other cases spread throughout the aircraft, even in first class.
47 passengers on Vistara flight UK6395 from New Delhi to Hong Kong on April 4th have now tested positive for COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/Mb4wCEPMPl
— 1B002Aaron 💉 💉 🇭🇰 (@tripperhead) April 18, 2021
A Vistara spokesperson said,
“Vistara ensures strict compliance with all guidelines issued by the Indian as well as the destination countries’ authorities for all flights, including all charter flights to and from Hong Kong. We will continue to be guided by any new requirements that may be introduced.”
Banned from Hong Kong
As you might expect, Hong Kong was quick to ban arrivals from India following this record of imported COVID cases. Previously, the route from Delhi to Hong Kong was banned, after the initial six positive tests.
However, with the huge number of positive passengers emerging from this flight, along with another three passengers testing positive following a flight from Mumbai, Hong Kong is now not allowing any further arrivals from India. The country is banned from operating flights starting tomorrow, April 20th, for 14 days.
Pakistan and the Philippines have received similar travel bans from the Hong Kong authorities. Of serious concern are the number of passengers found to be carrying new, more contagious varients of the virus.