Covid-19: Japan to allow Hong Kong flights to land at all airports following policy reversal

Japan has reversed a Covid-19 ban that barred Hong Kong flights from landing in some cities, a relaxation that came after the city’s authorities urged it to drop the restrictions.

Japan. File photo: Harald Johnsen, via Flickr.

In a Wednesday night statement, the Hong Kong government said that starting Sunday, passenger flights from Hong Kong would be allowed to land at all airports. Japan earlier restricted the flights to seven airports.

The government added however that Japan would continue to limit “the extent of the increase in the frequency of passenger flights departing from Hong Kong.”

“The HKSAR Government welcomes the relaxations, but emphasises that follow-ups with the Japanese authorities would continue such that Japan would rescind all restrictions targeting Hong Kong flights, with a view to reducing the impact on travellers,” the statement read.

A Cathay Pacific airplane. Photo: GovHK.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it was “aware of the latest updates from the Japan authorities on the adjustment of travel restrictions and will adjust schedules according to the travel demand.”

‘Unreasonable’ restrictions

Japan’s announcement in late December that it would block Hong Kong flights from landing at all but a limited number of airports sparked concern among the city’s travellers, for whom the country is a top tourist destination.

The Hong Kong government said at the time that the restrictions would affect about 60,000 passengers, adding that the rules were “unreasonable.”

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines all announced flight cancellations amid the curbs.

Hong Kong International Airport. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Several countries including the US, France, and South Korea imposed new regulations on travellers from mainland China after it announced it would reopen borders this Sunday. Since abandoning many of its strict Covid-19 rules, infections have surged across the border, with reports of hospitals and crematoriums being overwhelmed. Mainland China has been accused of not being transparent about its outbreak.

From Sunday, travellers entering Japan from or via mainland China must take on-arrival Covid-19 tests, with those testing positive required to isolate at a government facility, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation.

Hong Kong’s inbound and outbound travel has picked up in recent months with the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in the city, although experts have said that “permanent damage” has been inflicted on the industry by stringent rules.

Arrivals are no longer subject to testing after they land and a three-day ban on entering restaurants and other businesses has been dropped.

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