Hong Kong bars Air India flights for fourth time as 5 passengers test positive for COVID-19

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New Delhi, Oct 28 (PTI) Hong Kong has banned Air India flights from Mumbai till November 10 after five passengers on its flight earlier this week tested positive for COVID-19 post arrival, the airline said on Wednesday.

This is the fourth time that Air India flights from India have been banned by the Hong Kong government for bringing passengers who tested positive for the infection after arrival.

Previous bans were on the airline's Delhi-Hong Kong flights during September 20-October 3, August 18-August 31 and October 17-October 30.

Passengers from India can arrive in Hong Kong only if they have a COVID-19 negative certificate from a test done within 72 hours prior to the journey, according to rules issued by the Hong Kong government in July.

Moreover, all international passengers are required to undergo a post-flight COVID-19 test at the Hong Kong airport.

Besides India, a pre-flight COVID-19 negative certificate is mandatory for all passengers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the UK and the US, according to the Hong Kong government's rules.

An airline operating a flight to Hong Kong from these countries has to submit a form before departure, stating that all passengers onboard have COVID-19 negative certificates.

'Five of our passengers on a recent Mumbai-Hong Kong flight of ours had tested Positive in tests conducted at Hong Kong (25th Oct),' an Air India spokesperson said.

These passengers had submitted COVID-19-negative test reports from labs recognised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) before boarding and therefore, they were accepted on the flight, the spokesperson said.

However, the passengers were found to be COVID-19-positive when tested by the Hong Kong authorities on arrival, the spokesperson stated.

'As per Hong Kong regulation, in case any airline has 5 or more Covid-positive passengers on a flight, that airline is barred from bringing any passengers from the same origin to Hong Kong for 14 days,' the spokesperson said.

'Hence our flight from Mumbai to Hong Kong is banned for the period 28th October to 10th Nov '20. Incidentally we do not have any flight scheduled to Hongkong too in the coming days,' the spokesperson added.

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.

However, the Indian airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May this year and under the bilateral air bubble pacts since July this year.

Under a bilateral air bubble pact, the airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions. India has formed such pacts with approximately 18 countries.

'A few passengers who travelled on Air India's Mumbai-Hong Kong flight earlier this week tested positive for COVID-19 post arrival at Hong Kong,' a senior government official said earlier during the day.

'Subsequently, the Mumbai-Hong Kong flights have been barred from October 28 to November 10 by the Hong Kong government,' the official added. PTI DSP SMN SMN