With Omicron cases on the rise around the world, Hong Kong introduces tougher restrictions to combat the new variant’s spread.
We’re only ten days into 2022, and already Omicron is demonstrating that it’s determined to keep Covid fears high and aviation revenue down. Hong Kong joins the list of countries rushing to introduce measures that it hopes will curb the spread of the virus, with a two-week travel ban in place until January 21st. The move comes as the country shuts down many social hot spots such as bars and gyms, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam claiming that Hong Kong is “on the verge” of another Covid wave. So, why the sudden widespread fear? The decision to introduce further restrictions probably comes off the back of rising Omicron cases in the country. Lam stated her concerns over “silent transmission chains in the community,” involving multiple cases of infected individuals having close contact with many other people over the New Year. These incidents were made all the more serious as infected individuals were known to be present in very public places such as Victoria Park in downtown Hong Kong, sparking fears of community transmission. The new restrictions add to the country’s already tough ‘Zero Covid’ strategy, which sees Hong Kong adopting some of the tightest border restrictions in the world. Important to note here is that the ban only extends to the US, UK, Canada, the Philippines, Pakistan, France and India – but it still adds to the list of concerns dogging a slowly-recovering aviation industry.
With Lunar New Year beginning on the first of February, Omicron threatens to prevent the inevitable influx of flights into countries that celebrate the cultural event, preventing families from flying home to spend time with each other. That would mark another key holiday which airlines have been prevented from taking advantage of to boost sales and try to kickstart serious financial recovery. Amidst fear of further lockdowns and increased losses, airlines like Cathay Pacific have responded by reducing their flying schedules, with the Hong Kong flag carrier being forced to cut its cargo schedule amongst tighter quarantine requirements for its pilots. This will come as a serious blow for the airline, with cargo operations being arguably the only silver lining for airlines attempting to take advantage of the current E-commerce boom. On top of this, the travel ban comes just as the UK lifts its Omicron travel ban, cutting off yet another revenue stream for the airline over the next two weeks. Apparently, Covid doesn’t want to give any of us a break. It’s already looking like 2022 will be full of more lockdowns and Covid concerns.