Hong Kong has lost aviation hub status, says airline chief | coronavirus pandemic

The head of the International Air Transport Association said China’s pandemic policies had “devastated” the former British colony.

Hong Kong has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China’s ultra-strict “dynamic zero COVID” policy, the head of the global airline industry trade association has said.

Speaking at an aviation conference in Doha on Wednesday, International Air Transport Association (IATA) chief executive Willie Walsh said pandemic-imposed restrictions in China had “devastated” the former British colony and cost the city its status as a transport hub.

Hong Kong International Airport, one of the busiest gateways in the world before the pandemic, handled just 591,000 passengers between April and June, compared to 7.3 million passengers who passed through the Singapore Changi Airport during this period.

Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world still abiding by strict COVID-19 restrictions, as authorities try to align themselves with mainland China’s zero-tolerance strategy aimed at eradicating the virus to near zero. any price.

Under current Hong Kong rules, all arrivals must undergo three days of hotel quarantine followed by a four-day medical surveillance period that prohibits them from entering places such as bars and restaurants.

The mandatory quarantine period in hotels was seven days until last month and for a period of 14 months, extending to 21 days.

COVID-19 restrictions, along with a Beijing-led dismantling of rights and freedoms in the former British colony, have led to an exodus of residents and businesses from the financial hub, which for decades has made itself known as “Asia’s Global City”. More than 200,000 people left the city between 2020 and mid-2022, the largest exodus on record.

Hong Kong leader John Lee said on Tuesday his government was aware of the need to reconnect with the rest of the world and was “actively exploring” changes to the controversial quarantine policy.

Local media reported that the government planned to scrap the hotel quarantine in favor of seven days of medical surveillance, under which arrivals would still be restricted in their movement around the city.

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