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Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines over mutant COVID-19 strain

Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines over mutant COVID-19 strain

FILE PHOTO: Pilots wearing face masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus are seen at the Hong Kong International Airport, in May 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for two weeks from Tuesday (Apr 20), after the N501Y mutant COVID-19 strain was detected in the Asian financial hub for the first time, authorities said in a statement late on Sunday.

The three countries would be classified as "extremely high risk" after there had been multiple imported cases carrying the strain into Hong Kong in the past 14 days, the government said.

The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 29 of which were imported, marking the highest daily toll since Mar 15. Hong Kong has recorded more than 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths.

Commentary: COVID-19 variants are concerning but shouldn’t affect confidence in vaccines

Hong Kong authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9 per cent of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents vaccinated so far.

The government last week widened the city's vaccine scheme to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations amongst residents.

READ: Hong Kong plans to relax some COVID-19 rules for fully vaccinated residents

Airlines impacted by Hong Kong's ban on travellers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific.

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