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Hong Kong to ban passenger flights from UK to curb virus

On Monday, the Hong Kong administration passed a statement that said that the UK had been classified as extremely high risk because of the recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread delta variant virus strain there. 

Hong Kong to ban passenger flights from UK to curb virus-VPN
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Hong Kong, First Published Jun 29, 2021, 12:59 PM IST
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Hong Kong has said that it will ban all passenger flights from the United Kingdom starting on Thursday to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. 

On Monday, the Hong Kong administration passed a statement that said that the UK had been classified as extremely high risk because of the recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread delta variant virus strain there. 

More than 95% of the cases in the UK are of the delta variant, which is the same strain that was first identified in India and was responsible for its devastating second wave. 

Covid cases have risen over recent weeks as restrictions had started to ease, allowing indoor gatherings, cinemas and gyms to reopen. Scientists have said the variant is more transmissible but are uncertain whether it is deadlier. 

This is the second time that the region has banned flights from the UK. The first was in December. 

Travellers can still book one-way flights from Hong Kong to London on Cathay Pacific and British Airways. 

According to Dr Julian Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester, previous surges of the virus in Hong Kong have been tiny and that exported cases in a largely unvaccinated population would cause worry. 

They want to keep Chinese territory as pristine as possible until they can persuade people to get vaccinated, Tang said.

He also estimated that countries need to vaccinate or have at least 80% of their population immunised to stop the spread of the variant. The ban itself comes when tensions between the UK and China are high over Hong Kong, which was a British colony until 1997. 

The UK has criticised China for imposing a national security law over the region and restricting its media, claiming that it undermines the city's autonomy. The flight ban was triggered by a policy put in place by the government to prevent the spread of variants in Hong Kong. 

A ban is also triggered if more than ten passengers from one place are confirmed to be infected within seven days. The UK reported more than 22,000 new cases of the virus on Monday, with more than 66% of the population having received their first dose of a covid vaccine. Hong Kong, which has imposed a 21-day quarantine for new arrivals from most countries and has strict social distancing regulations, reported three new cases on Monday, with a total number of cases at 11,921. 

The ban on the UK comes as Hong Kong looks to relax measures for other countries such as the US and Canada. Last week, the WHO reported that the Delta variant is the 'most transmissible' variant identified to date and has spread to at least 85 countries. 

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