Hong Kong govt bans flights from PH, seven other countries amid Omicron fears

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 5) — The Hong Kong government has banned flights from the Philippines and seven other countries amid fears of a fifth wave of infections with growing Omicron cases.

In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said flights from the following countries will not be allowed from Jan. 8 to 21: Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Hong Kong leader said imposing the travel ban is crucial to prevent the further spread of Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant that is believed to be more infectious than Delta.

Lam noted that "most" of Hong Kong's imported cases come from these countries. The official is hoping the measure could "drastically cut down" imported cases.

Last week, the Philippines confirmed its three local cases of the Omicron variant, prompting government officials to place the capital under the stricter Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15.

"My view is that given the very dire situation of the pandemic, we have to grasp this critical moment. We have to contain the pandemic to ensure there will not be a major outbreak in the community again," she said.

"The situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating. Without this measure, the public health would be in jeopardy and our previous efforts would be in vain. We have to take this action," Lam said.

On Dec. 31, Hong Kong reported its first Omicron cases.

Lam said the Hong Kong government will tighten its social distancing measures to stamp out the spread of the new variant.