The Government of Hong Kong announced today that it is banning non-residents from several countries including Canada to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new variant, dubbed Omicron, was first detected in South Africa and coincided with a steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in that region in recent weeks, according to the World Health Organization.
As of Dec. 2, Hong Kong will temporarily ban non-residents from Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel and Italy. These countries have been specified as "high-risk" because health officials detected imported Omicron cases.
Non-Hong Kong residents who have visited any of the aforementioned countries within 21 days are not allowed to enter the city.
Prior to that, as of Nov. 30, non-Hong Kong residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia will not be allowed to enter the city. These places were identified as "high risk" due to "an imported case of the Omicron variant from Nigeria" as well as the spread of the variant in the region, explains a news release.
Hong Kong residents arriving from these countries must quarantine at the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre for seven days, where they'll have daily tests and have their health monitored. After seven days, they must quarantine for an additional 14 days at the hotel which they have reserved.
This arrangement is currently applicable to inbound travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Hong Kong residents can only board a flight for the city "if they have been fully vaccinated and hold a recognized vaccination record." They must also undergo 21 days of quarantine and six tests.
On Nov. 28, the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said it was investigating three additional imported COVID-19 cases, "two of which involve mutant strains while the remaining case's mutation test result is pending."
One of the imported cases was an asymptomatic 80-year-old man who arrived in Hong Kong from Canada via Cathay Pacific flight CX829 on Nov. 24. He received a full course of the BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine in Canada on May 16 and July 21.
Canada logged three more cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant Monday and was investigating other potential infections as hundreds of people who recently travelled back from countries deemed high-risk for the new strain were encouraged to get tested.
With files from the Canadian Press