Local airlines struggle to survive under Hong Kong’s strict Covid restriction
The former aviation hub has ‘fallen off the map’ as it continues with strict Covid measures which are impacting flights to and from its airport.
Back at the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong celebrated its ‘zero-Covid’ status, as its swift and tough crackdown enabled it to avoid the first few waves of the virus. Omicron changed all that, with the latest Covid strain bringing cases in excess of 300,000 and more than 200 deaths a day, as of the end of last month. This has played out just like it did in other countries, with the city’s healthcare system quickly becoming overrun. This has led to a change in how the city approaches Covid cases, with the previous law (entailing anyone who became infected being sent straight to a hospital) being modified so that less severe cases can quarantine in locally isolated areas. “Omicron has become so mild, in countries that have achieved widespread vaccination and natural infection rates, it may be less deadly than even the flu,” stated top Chinese Epidemiologist Zhang Wenhong. Less deadly; true, but still a massive issue for a city like Hong Kong, whose population and infrastructure have had limited exposure to the virus. This has meant that Omicron has hit Hong Kong extremely hard, with the city responding by maintaining, and even tightening, its international Covid restrictions. This is, understandably, very detrimental to the city’s industry and its population, who have had to deal with lockdown level restrictions for over two years. To make matters worse, the city’s administration recently had its own ‘Downing Street party’ scandal, as top political figures were shown to have been attending a celebration for an official’s birthday party, despite urging their own population to steer clear of such events. As you can probably imagine then, the situation isn’t great in Hong Kong, and it’s now about to get a lot worse.
IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, recently stated how the tough Covid restrictions have crippled the once bustling aviation hub of Hong Kong, with Walsh explaining that “it’s going to lag significantly behind the recovery that we’re seeing elsewhere, and has led to a tough time for all airlines operating there.” This verdict was rejected (of course) by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who seemingly has become an expert in the internal workings of the global aviation recently as she contested Walsh’s claim. Lam seems confident that Hong Kong’s already much revised restrictions can be made ‘workable’ in aviation terms by further updates, while also stating that her team is on it. Encouraging words, but the global industry still has cold feet when it comes to Hong Kong – and who can really blame them? With flights still being outright banned, as well as a weeklong quarantine period for all arrivals (making it hard for airlines to operate reliable flight schedules), international aviation seems to have decided that Hong Kong is now just too much trouble than it’s worth. Hopefully Lam will wake up and realise this before she cripples Hong Kong’s aviation industry further, but that remains to be seen.