Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Wednesday asked the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to rescind new COVID-19 travel restrictions. The restrictions, due to take effect from Friday and set to last until the end of January 2023, will limit inbound flights from HKSAR and Macao to four airports on the main island of Honshu. Outbound flights will not be affected. An estimated 250 flights and 60,000 passengers will be impacted by the restrictions.
The easing of China’s “zero-COVID” policy is creating a huge demand for international travel. Large numbers of Chinese citizens, residents of HKSAR and Macao are booking trips abroad. In response, JCAB imposed the restrictions in an attempt to limit the spread of potential, new variants to Japan. There is no data on whether new variants are present in China or associated territories. HKSAR authorities called the Japanese move “unreasonable” and “discriminatory.” HKSAR currently has a higher vaccination rate than Japan.
Japanese officials acknowledged the request on Thursday by opening three additional airports to receive travelers. The additional airports make the northernmost island and popular winter sports destination of Hokkaido accessible. The southern islands of Kyushu and Okinawa are also now open to inbound flights.
Restrictions on passengers traveling from mainland China do not include limited airport arrival. However, JCAB requires all travelers from China to submit to testing regardless of vaccination status. Similar measures are in place in the US and India. China has ceased publishing infection data with the end of its “zero-COVID” policy. The lack of transparency is causing concern as its borders reopen.