Australia has been placed on a list of eight high risk nations banned from flying into Hong Kong, amid precautions against a “fifth wave”.
Hong Kong has banned flights from eight countries in a snap response to rising coronavirus cases.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam introduced the measures on Wednesday (AEDT), including a 6pm restaurant curfew as the region battles its fifth wave.
“There has been rapid change in the pandemic situation which has caused us to be worried,” Ms Lam said via the South China Morning Post. “We will announce today fast, decisive and precise measures to cut the transmission chains.”
Lam has ordered a two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United States. The new measures will take effect on Saturday and will stay in place until at least January 21, with Ms Lam cautious of her jurisdiction being “on the verge of a fifth wave”.
Leading microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung urged officials to go harder with restrictions and consider temporarily closing schools as the Omicron variant spreads around the globe.
“The public should cancel any large group gatherings … When there are more cases with unknown sources, the government should also consider suspending the schools and banning dine-in services,” Prof Yuen told a morning radio show in China.
At the time of writing Hong Kong has a double-vaccination rate of 69.5 per cent.
Professor Gabriel Leung, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of medicine, warned restrictions would have to be intact for a minimum of three months to get the spread under control.
“The plan to open the border will once again fail,” he said, referencing a plan to reopen quarantine-free travel with mainland China.
“There are probably five to 10 invisible transmission chains in the community. It’s a very alarming situation,” he continued.
“If we don’t upscale the measures now, we would have to do it in a few days or weeks anyway. But by then it would be too late.”
On Tuesday, Hong Kong officials identified the city’s first preliminary positive case of Covid-19 from an unknown source in almost three months.
Hong Kong recorded 38 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases reported in the city to 12,799. The overall death toll since the beginning of the pandemic stands at 213.
Originally published as Hong Kong bans flights from eight different countries including Australia as Omicron takes hold