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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionNo more flights to Hong Kong for now

Hong Kong is to ban all flights from the UK to curb the spread of the Delta variant of Covid.

The UK is to be classified as an "extremely high-risk" country, the highest rating Hong Kong has for pandemic travel.

The ban will come into effect on 1 July and affect all incoming passenger flights from Britain.

It also comes amid political tensions between China and the west over a crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

The ban means people who'd recently spent more than two hours in Britain wouldn't be allowed to board flights to Hong Kong from any airport.

The city's authorities said the decision was based on the "recent rebound" of the pandemic in the UK and the "widespread Delta variant virus strain" in the country.

Record spike in the UK

Despite high vaccination rates, the UK is currently seeing Europe's highest number of daily new cases by far. Most of the new infections are linked to the Delta variant, first detected in India.

Hong Kong however confirmed its first local Delta variant only last week, ending a 16-day streak of zero local cases.

The city has had some of the strictest border curbs in the world since 2020, which helped to keep infections numbers low throughout the entire pandemic.

Officials said the city recently recorded a growing number of Delta variant cases in people arriving from the UK, who like all incoming travellers have to quarantine.

image copyrightReutersimage captionThroughout the pandemic, Hong Kong has managed to keep cases low

The 1 July flight ban is the second time Hong Kong has stopped arrivals from Britain after a ban from December 2020 until May of this year.

Flights outbound from Hong Kong to the UK are not affected by the upcoming ban.

Hong Kong already bars flights from several other countries over rising cases of the Delta strain, including Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Rising political tensions

The new ban on flights from the UK comes amid rising tensions over Hong Kong's recent pressure on opposition media and dissenting voices.

The past weeks have seen the city's largest pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily raided and several of its journalists arrested, forcing it to shut down.

A string of high profile activists have over the past months been arrested, and are awaiting trial.

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Most of the arrests and the crackdown on journalists are part of Hong Kong's national security law which criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries a maximum life sentence if those arrested are convicted.

The UK government was among those who said it "restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration".

There is also tension between Hong Kong and the UK after London introduced a visa system that gives millions of people from Hong Kong greater opportunities to live and work in the UK.

It provides them with a route to British citizenship too, a move that has infuriated Beijing.

media captionFrom protests to 'patriots': Why China is bent on crushing Hong Kong dissent