Cathay says HK airport transit from June 1 excludes mainland flights, three new Covid-19 cases reported

HONG KONG: Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Saturday (May 30) that the reopening of transit services for passengers at Hong Kong International Airport from June 1 will not include those travelling to and from mainland China.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced earlier this week that some transit passengers would be allowed through the hub from Monday, but did not provide further details. Transit through the airport has been barred since March 25 as part of measures taken to help control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cathay said travellers could transit Hong Kong if their itinerary was on a single booking and the connection time to the next flight was within eight hours.

"In this first phase, transiting to and from destinations in mainland China is not available," the airline said on its website.

China's aviation regulator has been flooded with tens of thousands of social media comments criticising it and the Chinese government for the small number of flight options to bring home people stranded overseas.

The regulator drastically reduced the number of allowed international flights to prevent the potential of importing Covid-19 (coronavirus) infections. Many foreign airlines are barred altogether and mainland carriers can fly just one weekly passenger flight on one route to any country, which has sent fares skyrocketing.

That rule does not apply to airlines from Hong Kong, such as Cathay, which are allowed more flights to and from the mainland, but the airline's statement on Saturday indicated it cannot immediately take advantage of the boom in demand.

Cathay has cut capacity by around 97% due to a fall in demand and strict quarantine regulations associated with the pandemic.

Rival Asian hub Singapore, which is not allowed nearly as many mainland flights, is gradually allowing some transit traffic to resume from June 2.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) reported three more confirmed cases of COovid-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number to 1,082.

The new cases involved three people returning to Hong Kong by a flight from Pakistan, Head of the CHP's Communicable Disease Branch Chuang Shuk-kwan told a press briefing, adding that there have been 16 infections in the flight that brought back 83 passengers on Thursday.

The CHP still urged the public to maintain appropriate social distancing and avoid social activities such as meal gatherings to minimise the risk of infection. - AFP
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