Air India/ representational image
Air India/ representational image

Hong Kong has banned Air India flights from Delhi till December 3 after a few passengers on its flight tested positive for the novel coronavirus post-arrival earlier this week, an official said on Friday.

This is the fifth time Air India's flights from India have been banned by the Hong Kong government for bringing passengers who tested positive for the pathogen after arrival.

Passengers from India can arrive in Hong Kong only if they have a coronavirus-negative certificate from a test done within 72 hours prior to the journey. All international passengers are required to undergo a post-flight COVID-19 test at the airport, according to rules issued by the city state's government in July.

The previous bans on the airline's Delhi-Hong Kong flights were from August 18-31, September 20-October 3 and October 17-30, and on its Mumbai-Hong Kong flights during October 28-November 10.

"A few passengers on a Delhi-Hong Kong flight of Air India earlier this week tested positive for COVID-19 post-arrival," the government official said. "Consequently, the airline's Delhi-Hong Kong flights have been banned till December 3." In a statement to PTI, an Air India spokesperson said the airline had been barred from operating any flights between Delhi and Hong Kong between November 20 and December 3.

However, the spokesperson added that the national carrier did not have any flight scheduled to Hong Kong during this period.

Besides India, a pre-flight COVID-negative certificate is mandatory for all passengers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the UK and the US, according to the Hong Kong government's rules.

An airline operating a flight to Hong Kong from these countries has to submit a form before departure, stating that all passengers onboard have COVID-negative certificates.

Another mandatory COVID-19 test is carried out for passengers after landing in Hong Kong and reports of this test may be at variance from the reports of tests conducted 72 hours before taking the flight, the spokesperson mentioned.

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.

However, the Indian airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under the bilateral air-bubble pacts since July.

Under the pact, the airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions. India has formed such pacts with approximately 20 countries.

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