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Hong Kong Bars British Travelers Over Delta Variant Concerns

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Passengers at the British Airways counter of the Hong Kong International airport last week.
Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times

Livia Albeck-Ripka

Hong Kong will suspend all passenger flights from Britain beginning July 1, the government said on Monday, citing the spread of the more virulent Delta coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom, which will be reclassified as “extremely high-risk.”

People who have stayed in Britain for longer than two hours will also be barred from boarding passenger flights bound for Hong Kong, the authorities said.

“A number of cases imported from the U.K. involving variant virus strains have persistently been found in the past few days,” officials said, according to Hong Kong’s government news agency.

The restrictions are the second time Hong Kong has suspended flights from Britain. After an outbreak of a dangerous variant in December, authorities barred passengers from entering, leaving many Hong Kong residents angered and confused as they desperately tried to return home.

Those restrictions were lifted in May.

Now, Britain is struggling with rising infections, recording a 109 percent spike in cases over the past 14 days, though cases remain a fraction of their winter peak, according to a New York Times database. Experts say the rise is likely linked to the highly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly in other countries as well.

The World Health Organization has said the variant is likely to become the most globally dominant strain of the disease.

On Monday, the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, also announced new restrictions on visitors from Britain. They will be required to present a negative coronavirus test or proof of full vaccination to enter the country.

In Hong Kong, restrictions on passengers arriving from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa will also remain in place.

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