Hong Kong will ban passengers flights from the UK starting from this Thursday, the government has said.

Hong Kong is the latest country to react to the prevalence of the Delta strain in the UK, banning all passenger flights from this Thursday.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government has said that the UK is “extremely high risk”. The move is a blow to the attempts of the UK to re-establish travel, particularly as the European Union is also discussing further restrictions as a result of the Delta strain which is prevalent in the UK.

“The Government announced today (June 28) the invocation of the place-specific flight suspension mechanism for the United Kingdom (UK). From 0.00am on July 1 (Hong Kong time), all passenger flights from the UK will be prohibited from landing in Hong Kong. The UK will also at the same time be specified as an extremely high-risk Group A1 specified place to restrict persons who have stayed in that place for more than two hours from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong, so as to stop persons from the relevant place from travelling to Hong Kong via transit.”

The Hong Kong government explained the changing situation, and the history leading to this point as follows:|

“In response to the severe worsening of the epidemic situation in the UK at the end of last year, Hong Kong specified the UK as an extremely high-risk place in December last year, and restricted people who had stayed in the UK from travelling to Hong Kong.  Subsequently, the UK’s local epidemic situation had greatly improved after the UK adopted a series of anti-epidemic measures and large-scale vaccinations. Taking into account the easing of the epidemic situation in the UK earlier, the Government gradually relaxed the restrictions in April and May on people who had stayed in the UK, including allowing Hong Kong residents to return to Hong Kong via designated flights in April, lowering the specification of the UK to a very high-risk Group A2 specified place from May 7 onwards, and further lowering the UK’s specification to a high-risk Group B specified place from June 4 onwards.

“However, in view of the recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread Delta variant virus strain there, coupled with a number of cases with L452R mutant virus strains detected by tests from people arriving from the UK at the “test-and-hold” arrangements upon arrival or during quarantine in Hong Kong, the Government announced on June 24 the upgrading of the specification of the UK to a Group A2 specified place from June 28 onwards, having closely monitored the epidemic developments there, the prevalence of mutant virus strains and the case importation risks that may be posed to Hong Kong. Nevertheless, a number of cases imported from the UK involving variant virus strains have persistently been detected in the past few days. As the number of the relevant imported cases has reached the threshold mentioned above, the Government will on July 1 invoke the place-specific flight suspension for the UK, and specify the UK as a Group A1 specified place.”

Hong Kong is particularly vulnerable because of the low uptake of vaccination among the population.

British Airways said it would continue its daily passenger service to and from Hong Kong, to enable passengers to travel from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

“While we are naturally disappointed by the Hong Kong government’s decision, which affects all carriers, we will work with them to return these passenger services as quickly as possible. Our Hong Kong to London service will continue to operate on a daily basis.”

For those who are no longer able to travel because of the ban on passengers entering Hong Kong, British Airways says

“We apologise to any customers affected by the temporary suspension of the London to Hong Kong route and will offer them a range of options including a full refund, rebooking, or a voucher which can be used towards a new booking, at any time up until 2023.”