HK govt under pressure to ban flights from 6 African countries following discovery of new COVID-19 variant strain

Regal Airport Hotel

26th November 2021 – (Hong Kong) After the Hong Kong delegation led by Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee participated in the second meeting with mainland experts, they confirmed that mainland experts and officials affirmed Hong Kong’s epidemic prevention work and believed that “the conditions for quarantine-free border reopening are met”. The Hong Kong government will promote the Hong Kong Health Code which is expected to be launched next week.

However, the Department of Health yesterday confirmed that a new variant virus has appeared in Hong Kong. The new variant virus strain “B.1.1.529”, which first appeared in Africa and is more resistant to the COVID-19 vaccine, has landed in Hong Kong. As a result, the Hong Kong government may follow the footsteps of U.K. and Israel to temporarily suspend flights from six countries in Africa as a new Covid variant with more than 30 mutations spreads in South Africa. In addition to South Africa, the countries of Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana are included in the new restrictions, according to a statement issued by the U.K.’s health, transport and health security agencies. This latest move may be necessary to ensure that the quarantine-free border reopening with mainland next week is not compromised.

The Department of Health confirmed that the two earlier imported cases carried the new variant virus strain “B.1.1.529”. They were two men who cross-infect each other on the same floor at the Regal Airport Hotel, a 36-year-old Indian man who arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa, and another 62-year-old man returning to Hong Kong from Canada who lived opposite his hotel room.

According to the Department of Health, based on the results of genome sequencing conducted by the University of Hong Kong, it was further confirmed that the genome sequences of the two cases were very similar to the newly emerged virus strain lineage “B.1.1.529” that was found in South Africa and Botswana. Similarly, it shows that the South African man is the source case, and there is no new confirmed case in the hotel for the time being. The World Health Organisation has designated this new strain as ‘Variant Under Monitoring’ and the Centre for Health Protection will closely monitor the latest developments.