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Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday asked Japan to lift restrictions on direct flights from the city, imposed following the explosion of Covid-19 cases in mainland China.
These restrictions include limiting direct flights from Hong Kong to four airports: Narita and Haneda in Tokyo, Kansai in Osaka and Chubu in Nagoya.
Affected airlines will still be able to fly empty planes to restricted airports to pick up stranded passengers in the coming days, according to Hong Kong authorities.
Hong Kong's Department of Transport said it was “strongly disappointed with the decision Japanese authorities during the high tourist season”.
He also said he has contacted the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong to “solemnly request” a reversal of this measure which is to take effect on Friday.
From Friday, Japan will also require drug tests on arrival for passengers arriving from China, but this will not apply to travelers arriving from Hong Kong and Macau.
Japan became one of the first countries to impose China-specific travel restrictions this week as infections surge on the mainland following the sudden abandonment of Beijing's so-called zero Covid policy. .
Hong Kong had applied a less severe version of China's so-called “zero Covid” strategy, while imposing some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world. They left the business center isolated for more than two years.
The city only recently began to lift these restrictions by ending the mandatory quarantine in hotels for all arrivals in September.
Since then, travel has increased, with Hong Kongers eager to take vacations and visit loved ones overseas.
Japan lifted its own restrictions on foreign arrivals in October and also saw a surge in travel.
As of May, just 700 Hong Kong arrivals were recorded at Japan's airports . In November, that number rose to 83,000.