Hong Kong city health experts said that a requirement for all passengers arriving in Hong Kong to be tested for the coronavirus will remain in place going forward. Experts predict that the practice will become a global standard at airports as the travel industry adapts to a new normal after the pandemic ends.
The South China Morning Post reported that airport personnel has now become the new first in line defense of the city against the battle with COVID-19.
Furthermore, Hong Kong has banned outsiders and transit passengers, give out tracking bracelets tied to a smartphone app and expanded a program commanding all arrivals to provide deep -throat saliva samples.
People coming from mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan are no exception to the rule especially if they have travel history to other countries in the past two weeks.
This aggressive strategy is put in place to contain a rising number of coronavirus infections since residents are starting to return from overseas. Nearly all cases of the infection have come from outside the city.
Monitoring regime in Hong Kong airport will remain
Dr. Wong Ka-hing, a controller of the city's Centre for Health Protection said that the monitoring regime in airports will stay in place for now. He added that it is unlikely that the city can go away with the testing soon.
The International Air Transport Association recognizes Hong Kong's program and it is being closely watched as the airline industries prepare to meet health, civil aviation and airport authorities in the coming weeks. Such a comprehensive strategy from Hong Kong will now become the new normal to make sure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not resurface when global air travel resumes once the pandemic is brought under control.
According to Alexandre de Juniac, the association chief, it is clear that the passengers' health control conditions will be a key element in starting the aviation industry. They are now advocating for the whole world to adapt the same measures, to avoid a patchwork of complex measures in the different parts of the world.
Limited capacity on testing
In a makeshift off-site testing center, the Hong Kong government carries out its mass coronavirus testing. Travelers are must wait at the AsiaWorld Expo, located near the airport, for up to 12 hours for their results to be processed. However, only a few airports are fortunate to have the same set-ups.
Given the necessary physical distancing among people, health officials admit that they can handle only one plane of 400 passengers per day for better quarantine control, according to Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the center's communicable disease branch.
Indeed, the screening procedure is a far cry from the 200,000 passengers who normally use the airport every day. It is still uncertain whether the testing of all arrivals would be part of the strategy opening up air travel or if the number can be increased.
Other major airports such as in Seoul, and Incheon have already set up a makeshift testing center outside their respective passenger terminal to screen up to 2,000 arrivals from Europe each day. The Airports Council International Asia-Pacific admitted that testing will be tricky and future measures may affect the travel time through the airport making traveling by air more complex.