Hong Kong has lost aviation hub status, airline body head says

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The head of the International Air Transport Association said China’s pandemic policy had “ravaged” the former British colony.

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Hong Kong has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China’s overly strict “COVID dynamic zero” policy, the head of an international trade association for the aviation industry has said.

Speaking at an aviation conference in Doha on Wednesday, International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO Willie Walsh said China’s pandemic restrictions had “ravaged” the former British colony and cost the city its status as a key transportation hub.

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Hong Kong International Airport, one of the busiest in the world before the pandemic, handled just 591,000 passengers between April and June, compared to 7.3 million passengers who passed through Singapore’s Changi Airport during that period.

Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world still enforcing strict restrictions on the spread of COVID-19 as authorities struggle to comply with mainland China’s zero-tolerance strategy to eradicate the virus at almost any cost.

Under current Hong Kong regulations, all arrivals are required to undergo a three-day hotel quarantine followed by a four-day medical observation period preventing them from entering places such as bars and restaurants.

The mandatory quarantine period at the hotel was seven days prior to last month and has stretched to 21 days over the course of 14 months.

COVID-19 restrictions, along with the dismantling of rights and freedoms in the former British colony under Beijing, have led to an exodus of residents and businesses from the financial center, which for decades called itself “Asia’s world city.” More than 200,000 people left the city between 2020 and mid-2022, the largest exodus on record.

Hong Kong leader John Lee said Tuesday that his government is aware of the need to reconnect with the rest of the world and is “actively looking into” changes to the controversial lockdown policy.

Local media reported that the government plans to phase out hotel quarantines in favor of seven days of medical supervision, under which arrivals will continue to be restricted from their movement around the city.

Credit: www.aljazeera.com /

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