Authorities in Hong Kong have imposed an emergency circuit breaker flight ban on all arrivals from three countries over fears a dangerous COVID-19 variant could be imported. The late night announcement came just hours after it emerged that 47 passengers on a single flight had tested positive for the novel Coronavirus after arriving in Hong Kong.
The 47 passengers who travelled on Vistara Air flight UK6395 from New Delhi to Hong Kong on April 4 have all tested positive for COVID-19 despite providing negative pre-departure test certificates to secure their place on the flight.
It remains unclear whether the COVID positive passengers were infected prior to boarding or at some point during the near five hour flight.
Investigators are also examining whether the passengers could have been infected during their mandatory 21-day stay in hotel quarantine.
As many as 25 of the infected passengers tested positive within the first 11 days of them being in Hong Kong. A further 22 passengers tested positive following routine sampling on day 12.
The incubation period for the virus that causes COVID-19 can be as long as 14-days, although most people display symptoms just five days after being infected. Hong Kong requires air passengers to observe a 21-day quarantine period, while some countries have cut isolation periods to just 10-days.
It’s not known how many passengers were onboard the affected flight but the Airbus A321 operated by Vistara had a total of 188 seats onboard.
Along with India, both Pakistan and the Philippines are subject to the circuit breaker flight ban which will come into fibre at midnight on April 20 for an initial period of two weeks.
Several airlines, including Emirates and KLM, as well as home carrier Cathay Pacific are subject to more specific bans imposed by Hong Kong health officials that seek to punish airlines that allow passengers onboard that then go on to test positive for COVID-19 after arrival.
Vistara had also been slapped with a ban on flights from Mumbai to Hong Kong just hours before the more sweeping circuit breaker was announced.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.