HONG KONG, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Hong Kong has asked Japan to roll back COVID-19 restrictions that allow passenger flights from the financial hub to land at only four designated airports, saying the decision would affect about 60,000 passengers.
India, Italy, Taiwan and the United States have mandated mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers from China after Beijing decided last month to roll back a strict zero-COVID policy that fueled a surge in infections on the mainland.
Hong Kong, home to more than 7 million people and recording about 20,000 daily coronavirus cases, lifted COVID restrictions on Thursday for the first time in three years.
Japan, a top travel destination for Hong Kongers, said it would restrict flights from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China to two airports in Tokyo, as well as Osaka and Nagoya, starting Friday.
The decision comes ahead of the peak tourist season ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Jan. 21.
“It is understood that between 30 December 2022 and the end of January 2023, about 250 outbound Hong Kong Airlines flights will be affected, affecting about 60,000 passengers,” the government said in a statement late on Wednesday. .”
City leader John Lee said the government had expressed to Japan that it was disappointed.
“We don’t think Hong Kong people should be allowed to use these four airports only,” Lee said.
On Thursday, the Hong Kong government said Japan would allow passenger flights from Hong Kong to also land in Hokkaido, Fukuoka and Okinawa, provided the passengers on board had not been to mainland China in the past seven days, but said the condition was “unreasonable”.
Hong Kong Airlines flights can still transport passengers from Japanese airports back to Hong Kong to ensure their smooth return and “minimize the impact of the incident on Hong Kong passengers,” the government said.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific (0293.HK) said in a statement that it would continue to operate flights to Japan, but at a reduced rate of 65 per week, a 20% reduction from the planned January 2023 schedule.
Cathay Pacific’s HK Express unit said in a separate statement that it could only operate 60 scheduled flights a week to Japanese destinations due to the restrictions, which led to the cancellation of 41 flights from Hong Kong to Japan in January. flight.
Hong Kong Airlines and Peach Airlines said they would cancel some routes in accordance with the regulations.
In December, China began lifting the world’s strictest COVID lockdown and widespread testing regime, putting its battered economy on track to fully restart next year.
Some international health experts say the lifting of restrictions after widespread protests means the spread of COVID is largely unchecked, potentially infecting millions of people every day.
Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Stephen Coates
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