Medical expert says UK flight ban is appropriate

An infectious disease expert on Tuesday said it was appropriate for the government to ban flights from the UK for the time being, given a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country involving the more infectious Delta variant.

The flight suspension will take effect from July 1.

Joseph Tsang from the Medical Association said the move comes just in time to stop Hong Kong residents returning to the city over the summer holidays.

“We need to be vigilant about whether there’s any imported Delta variant that will affect our community. This interim measure has to be revised or reviewed at intervals to make sure the banning of UK flights won’t affect our citizens very much,” he told RTHK.

But Tsang said in the longer run, the authorities have to think about whether flight bans would still be appropriate as the Delta variant is going to spread across the globe.

“Should we all ban countries that are affected with Delta variant, or we just need to change the policy and require all the passengers coming from elsewhere to receive two doses of vaccine together with a confirmed antibody test to verify their immunity against Delta,” he questioned.

Epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling from the University of Hong Kong, meanwhile, said the government needs to distinguish between passengers who are infected with Covid and those who have recovered from an infection.

“Most likely given the low level of incidence in the UK, it doesn’t pose a major risk to Hong Kong to have people coming from the UK and serving 21 days in quarantine,” he told RTHK’s Backchat programme. “The quarantine has been working. Actually 21 days may be too long but it’s working.”

Cowling said he was worried that sooner or later there may be cases in the community that are not caused by people who have left quarantine, but through other sources such as people who were exempted from quarantine.