Hong Kong recorded a net outflow of 71,354 people in February, the highest since the fifth wave began, with the US consulate warning Americans not to travel to the city and Swiss nationals planning to leave on a special flight amid tough Covid-19 restrictions. According to passenger traffic data from the Immigration Department, a total of 94,305 people left the city in February, while only 22,681 arrived. The net outflow is significantly higher than 15,252 in January, and 16,879 in December, the month in which the city’s fifth coronavirus wave started. The figures emerged as the US consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday warned Americans not to travel to the city, citing the risk of parents being separated from their children over Covid-19 infections. “The Travel Advisory is now at Level 4: do not travel due to Covid-19 and Covid-19 related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated,” the statement from the American consulate read. “We especially want to note for families considering travelling to or residing in Hong Kong that in some cases, children in Hong Kong who test positive have been separated from their parents and kept in isolation until they meet local hospital discharge requirements.” Consulates in Hong Kong concerned by separation of parent from Covid-positive baby It said the zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments had severely affected travel and access to public services. The American consulate also cited the risk of “arbitrary enforcement of laws”, a situation which it perceived as “the same” as in mainland China, according to an appraisal. Sources have said Hong Kong could impose a citywide lockdown as it rolls out its first large-scale mass testing in the second half of the month, but experts have called for the exercise to be deferred to April until coronavirus infections have peaked. The city’s Covid-19 crisis showed no signs of abating, with a record 55, 353 cases on Wednesday, while the death toll rose to 1,182. In terms of inflow, immigration authorities approved 13,821 work visas for foreigners in 2021 under the General Employment Policy, down from 14,617 in the previous year. A total of 19,812 applications for extension of stay were also approved last year. Meanwhile, some Swiss nationals are planning to leave by a special flight operated by Swiss Air International on March 7 from Hong Kong to Zurich, with bookings opening on Tuesday, the Post has learned. Swiss Consul General Rolf Frei informed nationals of the flight to Zurich in an email seen by the Post , saying he was “glad of this outcome”. He said the city’s pandemic situation had “deteriorated” and would “impact significantly our community in the coming weeks”, referring to the compulsory universal testing and potential lockdown in March. “I understand that many Swiss citizens feel frustrated on a certain level by current policies,” he said. Amid a sharp increase in demand for flights, the German Industry and Commerce and the German Chamber of Commerce said in an email seen by the Post that the latter was in talks with Lufthansa Group to offer travel arrangements to employees of German companies and their families. “Lufthansa Group will continue to evaluate conditions for other potential flights,” the email said. The British and Canadian consulates, meanwhile, told the Post they had no current plans to charter aircraft from Hong Kong, as tickets for commercial flights were still available. The Post understands that Australia was not in touch with airlines to arrange special flights from Hong Kong. Sophie Richie, vice consul of the British consulate in Hong Kong, said: “Despite rumours to the contrary, the UK Government has no plans to charter aircraft from Hong Kong.” According to its website, Cathay Pacific Airways has arranged special flights to London on March 16 and to Perth on March 13. Emirates told the Post that over the past month bookings had increased to Britain, and other European destinations such as Paris and Lisbon. A US consulate spokesman said despite the ban on flights from the United States, there were currently commercial flight options to the country via Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok and Singapore. Flights from the US are currently banned by Hong Kong until April 20, along with Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Bookings have surged in Hong Kong amid a shortage of flights, with some airlines banned for two weeks after being found to be carrying infected passengers. Finnair told the Post that due to the travel restrictions set by Hong Kong authorities, both its inbound and outbound flights were cancelled until the end of March. “We continue to evaluate whether we will be able to also restart our flights to Hong Kong as of April,” the statement said. Singapore Airlines, which typically operates two flights a day from Hong Kong to Singapore, was banned for two weeks after carrying infected passengers, with inbound trips to only resume on March 2. Emirates has also been banned from operating flights to Hong Kong from Dubai and Bangkok, while Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot faced restrictions, along with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines services from Amsterdam. What Covid-19 lockdown can Hong Kong handle... or is it ready at all? Hong Kong health care system has been overwhelmed, with hospitals and isolation facilities reaching full capacity. There have been reports of cases in which parents have been separated from their infected children. Last month, a Hong Kong mother was not allowed to stay with her 11-month-old baby, who was being treated in an intensive care unit at a public hospital. The parents were told the hospital did not have space for them, not even in the corridor, as they were close contacts of a confirmed case. The family members were later reunited in Penny’s Bay quarantine camp. After the case was exposed, the British and Australian consulates issued strongly worded statements to local authorities over such concerns.