The Hong Kong authorities mentioned final month that it could enable a whole lot of residents who’ve been stranded in Britain by virus-related journey restrictions to return on two particular flights.
However when these residents went to ebook seats on flights, the web site for Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag service, crashed. The snafu on Thursday was the newest chapter in a bureaucratic saga that has left them feeling indignant, confused and exasperated.
The Hong Kong authorities suspended flights from Britain in December as a coronavirus variant unfold by that nation. It additionally barred anybody who had spent greater than two hours there or in different “extraordinarily high-risk” locations within the earlier 21 days from boarding a direct flight to the Chinese language territory.
These measures, which stay in impact, additionally apply to inbound vacationers who’ve not too long ago been to Brazil, Eire or South Africa. However final week Hong Kong mentioned that it could organize two particular return flights from London on Cathay Pacific in late April. It cited Britain’s declining caseload and “passable vaccination progress” as causes for the coverage shift.
When the airline’s web site crashed on Thursday, mentioned Anthony Sheik Bux, a district councilor in Hong Kong who has been serving to the stranded vacationers, “folks panicked” and began contacting him.
In a press release on Friday, Cathay Pacific apologized for the glitch and mentioned that roughly 600 seats on the 2 flights — scheduled for April 21 and April 28 — had offered out after the web site drawback was resolved.
The South China Morning Submit newspaper reported final week that the journey ban had stranded greater than 600 Hong Kong residents in Britain. Mr. Bux mentioned on Friday that a few of them had been unable to ebook seats on the particular flights.
It was unclear whether or not extra flights could be provided, or why officers in Hong Kong, the place the borders have been closed to nonresidents for greater than a 12 months, waited greater than three months to schedule the 2 flights. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Division referred questions on Friday to the Meals and Well being Bureau, which declined to remark.
Mr. Bux mentioned he may sympathize with the stranded vacationers as a result of he, too, had been stranded by the December ban whereas visiting household in Liverpool. He mentioned he was among the many 200 to 300 Hong Kong residents who had managed to make it residence from Britain after spending a 21-day “wash out” interval in a 3rd nation like Thailand, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates.
In Mr. Bux’s case, he flew to Bangkok on Feb. 7 and arrived residence greater than three weeks later — solely to start a compulsory three-week resort quarantine, one of many world’s longest. Some scientists have questioned whether or not that coverage is just too strict as a result of the coronavirus is extensively thought of to have a 14-day incubation interval.
“After my departure from the U.Ok., I wanted 42 days to renew my regular life in Hong Kong,” he mentioned. “It’s a extremely lengthy interval.”