Fourteen passengers who travelled from Delhi to Hong Kong on an Air India flight on August 14 have tested positive for COVID-19 till Thursday, the Hong Kong government said.
Due to this incident, Air India's passenger flights have been barred from landing in Hong Kong till August-end, it added on Friday.
A passenger from India can arrive in Hong Kong only if he or she has a COVID-19 negative certificate from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey, according to the rules issued by the Hong Kong government in July. In a statement to PTI on Friday, a spokesperson of the Department of Health of the Hong Kong government said, "A flight operated by Air India (AI314) arriving Hong Kong from India on August 14 had 11 passengers confirmed to have infected with COVID-19."
As a result, the department invoked the "Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) on August 17 to prohibit landing of passenger flights operated by Air India for two weeks from August 18 to 31 in Hong Kong", the spokesperson noted. "As of August 20, a total of 14 passengers on that flight were confirmed to have infected with COVID-19," he added. The statement did not elaborate if these 14 passengers had COVID-negative certificates with them from the tests done 72 hours prior to their journey, as required by the aforementioned rules.
Besides India, a pre-flight COVID-19 negative test result certificate is mandatory for all passengers coming from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and the US, according to the Hong Kong government's rules. An airline operating a flight to Hong Kong from any of these nine countries has to submit a form before departure stating that all passengers on board have COVID-19 negative certificates, as per the rules.
Moreover, all international passengers are required to take a post-flight COVID-19 test at the airport premises in Hong Kong. In a statement, Air India spokesperson said,"In the wake of recent developments related to flight operations to Hong Kong, Air India will not be operating its three flights scheduled for Hong Kong till August-end." "One of these flights is scheduled to operate as a cargo-only flight without any passenger from India and will return from Hong Kong with passengers. Air India has been adhering to all the protocols and norms laid down for flying to the different destinations," the spokesperson added.
In India, the total cases of coronavirus infections mounted to 29,05,823, while the death toll climbed to 54,849 with 983 new fatalities being reported in a span of 24 hours, data updated by the Union Health Ministry at 8 am on Friday showed. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, special international flights have been operating with the approval of aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Air India has been operating special international flights since May 6 under the Vande Bharat Mission to help stranded people reach their destinations.
Since July, India has established separate bilateral air bubble arrangements with countries like the US, Germany, France, the UAE, the UK and the Maldives for international flight operations. Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions.