Hong Kong is drastically limiting travel to and from mainland China, including cutting all rail and ferry links and scaling back on flights, as officials seek to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
According to a government statement released on Tuesday, four local carriers—Cathay Pacific Airways, Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express—will start reducing service between Hong Kong and 24 mainland destinations beginning January 30 as part of a government response to limit cross-border transport movements. The cuts will see weekly flights slashed in half, from about 480 to roughly 240, until further notice. Meanwhile, authorities have suspended all flights between Hong Kong and China’s Hubei province—the center of the outbreak—since last Friday.
Cathay Pacific and its Cathay Dragon subsidiary confirmed the move on Tuesday, stating they would “progressively” reduce capacity by 50 percent or more until the end of March in response to the government’s directive and “in view of market demand,” referring to the commercial challenges arising from Hong Kong’s roiling protests. Cathay currently offers direct flights from Hong Kong to 26 Chinese mainland destinations, accounting for roughly 10 percent of the group’s annual revenue.
“We are actively reviewing our flight schedules at the moment and will be updating them progressively over the next 48 hours,” Cathay said in a company statement. “Rebooking, rerouting, and refund charges will be waived for all tickets issued worldwide…”
The cuts stand among several measures imposed on Tuesday to contain the spread of the flu-like virus, which has claimed 106 lives and infected over 4,600. Starting Thursday, all rail and ferry links will close, as will museums and other public institutions. Meanwhile, city officials are asking residents to work from home, except for those employed in emergency services.