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Air India narrowbody aircraft (Photo: Kambui [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

Hong Kong Suspends Cathay Dragon, Air India Flights

Hong Kong has temporarily barred Cathay Dragon’s flights from Kuala Lumpur and all Air India flights from operating in the city after a number of passengers originating from India tested positive for COVID-19.

Cathay Dragon acknowledged the temporary suspension in a press release on Sunday citing it was informed by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of the decision.

Cathay Dragon’s passenger flights from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong will be prohibited from landing at Hong Kong International Airport for two weeks from Sept. 20 to Oct. 3. Cathay Dragon had been scheduled to operate three flights a week between Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. 

Reports indicate that as many as five passengers who tested positive for the novel coronavirus flew Cathay Dragon to Hong Kong. They tested positive on Friday of last week. The five passengers originated their travel in India and had transitioned to the Cathay Dragon flight in Kuala Lumpur.

Air India has had all flights banned for the same period after a flight on Sept. 18 carried six passengers who were found to have contracted the COVID-19 virus. This is Air India’s second ban to Hong Kong in a little more than a month for the same reason.

Hong Kong tightened its health rules recently to manage the pandemic in the 4th most densely populated city in the world. Any airline that carries five COVID-19 passengers or more, or two consecutive flights with three or more diagnosed passengers, risks being banned from Hong Kong under Chapter 599H of the Laws of Hong Kong.

The recent incidences have raised questions about the accuracy of testing in India. Most countries require a negative COVID-19 test from at least 72 to 96 hours before a flight. Despite passengers being tested prior to departure, several are testing positive on arrival.

According to the health authorities in Hong Kong, the documents provided by the passengers on the Cathay Dragon flight, including a negative nucleic acid test result for COVID-19, were in compliance with Chapter 599H despite the poise test results on arrival.

According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong has doubts over India’s testing reliability and the authenticity of health documents. With two bans for Air India, and many transiting Indian passengers testing positive, the city might enforce even stricter testing requirements to prevent more cases.

Air India has been banned from multiple countries. Dubai banned Air India Express flights after the airline knowingly carried two positive passengers. Similarly, Air India was banned from Hong Kong from Aug. 18 to 3  after its previous flight had 11 positive passengers.

Rick Shideler
Rick Shideler
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