Hong Kong airport says transit flights from high-risk countries will be suspended over COVID from January 16 to February 15.
Passengers from 153 nations have been banned from transiting through Hong Kong airport, in the latest tightening of the city’s strict anti-virus travel measures.
Elsewhere, the Australian government on Friday cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying the world tennis No 1, unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
Like mainland China, Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s harshest measures throughout the pandemic — including weeks-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns and mass testing.
The Chinese business hub ranks territories into categories based on how widespread their Covid-19 infections are, with 153 countries currently classified as Group A — from which arrivals must spend 21 days in quarantine.
Hong Kong’s airport said anyone who has spent time in the last three weeks in any of those countries would be banned from transiting from Sunday.
Eight Group A countries — Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Britain and the United States — are already banned entirely from arriving in Hong Kong.
The city is battling a small outbreak of the Omicron variant that began with returning Cathay Pacific flight crew who breached home quarantine rules.
It has reimposed strict social distancing rules, including closing gyms and halting restaurant dining after 6 pm, and has said Cathay Pacific might face legal action.
Cathay Pacific is already flying only a fraction of its pre-pandemic routes and many of its long-haul flights transit through its home city.
Other airlines have dramatically scaled back routes to Hong Kong or begun avoiding it all together because of the quarantine rules.
It is not clear whether the transit suspension will impact the Winter Olympics, with many athletes and officials expected to travel to China via Hong Kong in the coming days ahead of next month’s opening of the Games.
The suspension was first reported by Bloomberg News this week citing sources who said it would not apply to diplomats, officials and athletes heading to the Olympics.
But the Hong Kong airport statement on Friday listed no exemptions for Olympic delegates and a spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for clarity.
Mainland China is battling its own coronavirus outbreaks in several cities, testing the country’s strict “zero-Covid” strategy just weeks ahead of the Games, which will be held in a bubble that seals all participants off from the wider population.
About 13 million people in the historic city of Xi’an were sent into lockdown last month after the Delta variant was detected silently spreading.
On Thursday officials said some sections of the city could now be deemed lower risk, suggesting the outbreak there might be easing.