HK bans non-resident arrivals from 7 African states

Hong Kong authorities on Friday moved to ban non-residents who’ve spent time in seven African countries in the previous three weeks from entering the SAR, as global concern rises over the latest coronavirus variant.

The measures were to take effect from midnight, with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe added to the Group A specified places covered by the stringent travel rules. South Africa, which is at the centre of the variant outbreak, was already in Group A.

“The mutant variant B.1.1.529 has been detected in South Africa and Botswana,” a government spokesman said.

“Although scientists are not fully certain of its potential effects on the epidemic situation or whether the relevant mutations would affect the efficacies of vaccines, we have to stay vigilant.

“Therefore, along with South Africa which is currently a Group A specified place, the Government will also specify Botswana, as well as the adjacent Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe as Group A specified places.”

Under the rules for Group A countries, Hong Kong residents who’ve been in any of the nations can only board a flight to the SAR if they’re fully vaccinated and can provide a recognised vaccination record.

They will have to spend 21 days in a designated quarantine hotel on arrival.

The government said the control measures Hong Kong is applying are more stringent than measures announced by other countries including Britain, Singapore and Israel.

Two cases of the variant were found earlier this month among patients in quarantine at the Regal Airport Hotel. The mutation has alarmed experts, who are concerned that it is likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination.

The World Health Organisation was holding an emergency meeting on its response on Friday.

Earlier, government adviser and infectious diseases expert David Hui said officials should consider banning flights from South Africa.