HONG KONG, Dec 29 (Reuters) – The Hong Kong government has asked Japan to lift a COVID-19 restriction that requires passenger flights from the financial hub to land at just four designated Japanese airports, saying the move will affect approximately 60,000 passengers.
The United States, India, Italy and Taiwan now require mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers from China after Beijing’s decision last month to lift strict zero COVID policies, fueling a rise in cases throughout mainland China.
Hong Kong, home to more than 7 million people, is seeing around 20,000 coronavirus cases a day, but on Thursday lifted its COVID restrictions for the first time in three years.
Japan, which is a top travel destination for Hong Kongers, said it would limit flights from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China to Tokyo’s two airports, as well as Osaka and Nagoya. starting on Friday. The decision comes during a peak travel season and ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday which begins on January 22.
“It is understood that around 250 flights departing from Hong Kong airlines will be affected between December 30, 2022 and the end of January 2023, affecting around 60,000 passengers,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday.
City leader John Lee said the government had indicated to the Japanese government that it was disappointed.
“We believe Hong Kong people should be allowed to use not just these four airports,” Lee said.
Hong Kong airline flights can still bring passengers back to Hong Kong from various airports in Japan, the government said, to “ensure the smooth return of Hong Kongers from Japan and minimize the impact on Hong Kong travelers caused by the incident”.
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways (0293.HK) said in a statement on Thursday that it would continue to operate flights to Japan, although it would reduce them to 65 per week, down 20% compared to its planned schedule for January 2023.
HK Express, which is owned by Cathay, said in a separate statement it would only be able to operate 60 scheduled flights per week to destinations in Japan due to the restrictions, leading to the cancellation of 41 flights. from Hong Kong to Japan in January 2023.
Hong Kong Airlines and Peach Aviation have announced that they will be canceling some flight routes due to the rules.
In December, China began dismantling the world’s toughest COVID regime of lockdowns and extensive testing, putting its struggling economy on track for a full reopening next year.
The lifting of restrictions, following widespread protests against them, means COVID is spreading largely out of control and likely infecting millions of people a day, some international health experts say.
Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Stephen Coates
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.