Hong Kong made waves with one of the strictest COVID-19-related quarantines in the world. Amid a recent growth in the number of cases in Hong Kong, all foreign arrivals must quarantine for a whopping 21 days, extending the previously-mandated 14-day quarantine by a week.
Hong Kong quarantine requirement grows
Hong Kong announced amid the Christmas holiday that all travelers who are coming from places outside of China must undergo a compulsory 21-day quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel. Passengers, who otherwise have to comply with strict entry protocols, have to now work with this new requirement.
The 21-day quarantine requirement started on December 25th and was a near last-minute decision that has thrown things into chaos in the city for travelers. Passengers have to make their arrangements and show compliance with entry restrictions before boarding their flights.
Hong Kong has seen a recent spike in the number of cases. While the numbers themselves have been pretty low, the city has taken a strict approach when it comes to COVID-19.
While other locations have turned to COVID-19 testing before or after, or both, as a means to allow essential travel, Hong Kong has resisted this and maintained a quarantine requirement. While other places in the world have shortened mandated quarantines, Hong Kong is doing the opposite.
Hong Kong further isolates itself
Hong Kong has joined Australia and New Zealand as isolated localities that are off-limits for most foreigners and require strict quarantines.
Previously, the city was well-known for banning airlines that crossed certain thresholds by transporting COVID-positive passengers, either knowingly or unknowingly, in a certain period of time. This precluded those airlines from flying passengers to Hong Kong, though they could still fly passengers out of Hong Kong. British Airways faced a ban through Christmas.
A worsening situation for airlines
The already few passengers who are flying to Hong Kong now will be further reduced. The city used to be one of the most important destinations in the world for business travelers and was also a hub for leisure travelers. While the city still has an important financial impact globally, much of that is due to airlines that help keep the city connected to other financial centers, such as New York and London.
Airlines will likely see a fall-off in bookings. At the current rate Hong Kong is going, it will likely be one of the last places to reopen and may mandate proof of vaccinations for inbound arrivals, similar to what other countries do with other vaccines, like yellow fever.
Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s hometown carrier, will face the brunt of this. The airline has already seen one of the worst, if not the worst year, in its long history, and it currently shows few if any signs of abating, with limited support from the government.
While passenger carriers, including Cathay Pacific, have turned to cargo-only flights, it is still not enough for airlines to turn a profit. Even “preighters” (passenger jets being used as temporary freighters) have not helped airlines. These aircraft cannot carry the large, heavy, and expensive cargo on the main deck that would otherwise earn cargo carriers millions of dollars in a year.