Over 60,000 Hong Kong travelers who had flights booked to Japan were left in despair as Japan announced its targeted entry restrictions for flights arriving from China.

A group of Hong Kong travelers was left in chaos as Japan tightened its entry requirements for flights coming from China. Soon after China scrapped its COVID-ZERO and border restrictions earlier this week, the Prime Minister of Japan stated on Friday that inbound flights from China will be restricted to 4 airports only, namely Narita, Haneda, Kansai, and Chu bu. In addition, the number of flights will be limited and travelers with a positive test result will expect a quarantine period of 7 days.

HKIA airrcafts parked
The controversial route-specific isolation scheme hinders airlines to re-establish flights to Hong Kong © Forbes

This announcement has sparked outrage among Hong Kong travelers who have booked flights to airports other than the restricted airports.

Mainland China Opens up on the 8th January 2023

Starting from the 8th of January, 2023, China will be dropping its quarantine and border policies for international travelers for the first time since March 2020 as the country scrap its COVID-ZERO approach towards the pandemic. This recent announcement has led to a 10 times increase in the web search for overseas tours according to Ctrip’s data, with Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea being the most searched destinations.

Hong Kong lifts most Covid-19 related measures this week.

Whilst on a separate quarantine scheme, Hong Kong had already opened up its border earlier in November with the 0+3 entry requirements. Japan being Hong Kong’s favourite holiday destination, had had its ticket price up to 4 times the normal price as travelers in Hong Kong are eager to visit their “hometown” for the first time in 3 years.

chief executive of Hong Kong John Lee
Recently appointed chief executive of Hong Kong John Lee has already made some landmark COVID19 policy overhauls. © Ammar Awad

On the 28th of December, Chief Executive of Hong Kong John Lee Ka Chiu stated in a press conference that the city will drop all Covid-19 related measures with the exception of the mandate of face masks in public. This was seen as a reiteration or follow-up to China’s recent announcement of dropping border control. Lee had reinforced that Hong Kong will be open up to mainland travelers in sync with China’s border relaxation starting from the 8th of January.

Japan pours cold water on China’s relaxation

In response to China’s border relaxation, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida responded abruptly with the announcement to restrict flights originating from China, including Hong Kong, and Macau. He stated the reason behind this is due to the surge in positive Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks as China lifts its domestic movement restrictions. All arriving travelers, including Japanese nationals, from China, will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. A quarantine period of 7 days will be implemented for travelers tested positive.

“It is difficult to grasp the situation in China because the information on infections differs between the central and regional governments, as well as between the government and the private sector,” Kishida said. “People in Japan are getting worried because of that.”

Fumio Kishida – Prime Minister of Japan

The sudden announcement left travelers in Hong Kong left with despair as they have already booked the trips as Hong Kong was first to open back in November. Reuters reported that up to 60,000 passengers are affected.

“It is understood that around 250 outbound flights of Hong Kong airlines will be affected between December 30, 2022 and the end of January 2023, affecting around 60,000 passengers,”

the Hong Kong Government

Flag carrier Cathay Pacific stated that they will continue to operate flights to Japan but with the limitation of only 65 flights per week, which corresponds to 80% of its original planned schedule. The city’s only LCC stated they will operate 60 flights a week and up to 40 flights will be canceled in January.

Hong Kong Travelers Exempted with Conditions

With thousands of travelers in Hong Kong trying to change their flights since the announcement, the Japan Government announced on the 29th of December, that flights from Hong Kong will be exempt as long as no passengers were in mainland China 7 days before the day of arrival. The exemption extends to three additional airports namely Chitose, Fukuoka, and Naha.

Hong Kong Travelers exempt recently imposed restrictions of Chinese flights entering Japan.
Hong Kong Travelers might be exempt to the recently imposed restrictions of Chinese flights entering Japan. © Travel Radar

Following Japan’s targeted mandates of requirements for travelers arriving from mainland China, countries such as Italy, The United States, India, and Taiwan have also introduced additional test and quarantine measures for flights arriving from China.

These recent additional requirements targeted at mainland China had led to controversies within the nation. Do you think the countries are just doing their parts to prevent the spread of a potential outbreak? Let us know in the comments below.

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