Tour agents have questioned the effectiveness of requiring arrivals from Hong Kong and Macau to declare at three Japanese airports opened to them that they have no recent travel history to mainland China, suggesting the policy would only amount to a “gesture” with no accurate way to validate such information. Operators in Hong Kong pointed out that residents from the city and Macau used a different travel document, the home return permit, to enter the mainland, leaving no record on their passports. Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, executive director of travel agency EGL Tours, on Friday said he felt happy that Japanese authorities had eased measures promptly, but he was worried the policy would be reduced to cursory action. “Passengers make the declaration themselves; it is difficult for airlines to validate [the information],” he told a radio programme. “The Japanese government didn’t say whether there would be any repercussions if the passengers made a false declaration.” Hong Kong recorded 27,830 Covid-19 infections on Friday and 72 related deaths. The city’s total tally now stands at 2,596,426 cases and 11,755 fatalities. Earlier this week, Japan announced it would from Friday limit arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau to only Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo, Kansai International airport in Osaka and Chubu airport in Nagoya. Japan also asked airlines not to increase the number of flights to the country. Japanese authorities then eased the restrictions on Thursday, allowing flights from Hong Kong and Macau to continue using New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Fukuoka Airport and Naha Airport in Okinawa, if passengers declare they have not been to the mainland in the week before their departure. Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said on its website it would set up dedicated check-in counters for customers at the city’s airport to “facilitate the self-declaration process”. The Post on Friday observed at Hong Kong International Airport that passengers headed for Japan are required to tick a box to declare they have not been to the mainland in the past week. Travellers from the mainland will need to take Covid-19 tests on arrival in Japan from Friday, but visitors from Hong Kong and Macau will not be subject to the requirement. Huen said some group tours previously cancelled due to the restrictions could be resumed, involving 200 to 300 participants. He also warned that while 85 per cent of his company’s tourism products for Lunar New Year had been sold, he might consider raising the prices of such tours if airline seats were in short supply then. Yuen Chun-ning, chairman of travel agency WWPKG Holdings, told another radio programme that it was an “honour system” issue, and because operators could only check passengers’ passports, it was hard for them to verify whether travellers had used a home return permit to enter the mainland. Hong Kong urges Japan to drop all flight curbs after country eases airport bans Meanwhile, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Friday said on Facebook he had instructed a team to remain in touch with Japanese authorities and to offer help to any Hong Kong residents affected by the restrictions. “The Transport and Logistics Bureau will keep in touch with airlines to ensure they can properly explain the latest flight arrangements to the affected residents,” Lee said. The government estimated earlier that 60,000 Hong Kong travellers would be affected in the coming month as a result of Japan’s policy. Yau Kin-pong, 25, a customer service officer who originally planned a five-day trip in January with friends, had cancelled his flight with Hong Kong Airlines due to Japan’s earlier announcement banning city travellers from landing in Okinawa. As a result of the eased policy, he now wanted to restore his plan. “I am very unhappy about Japan’s arrangement. Its policy keeps changing and it should have notified travellers in advance,” he said. “Now I keep ringing the airline trying to withdraw my previous flight cancellation, but nobody is answering my call. If I need to rebuy the ticket, I will need to spend more.” Yau added: “The whole thing upsets a lot of people’s plans, especially when it’s the holiday season. I feel that I have been fooled by the Japanese government and the airline company.” At the city’s airport, Samson Leung, 50, a Hong Kong technician heading to Osaka, said the new arrangement was unreasonable. “Even if we have been to the mainland in the past seven days, I think the [polymerase chain reaction] PCR test upon arrival should not be mandatory if we have already tested negative before that,” he said. Hong Kong leader disappointed by Japan flight curbs as 60,000 travellers hit Traveller Michael Kam, a 36-year-old investor who was flying to Osaka for five days for a family holiday, said he understood Japan’s concerns given the situation on the mainland. “Every country has their own concerns and priorities. Because the mainland’s Covid situation is very serious now, it is understandable that they request mandatory tests if we have been there in the past week.” Jason Lam, a 19-year-old student, was travelling to Tokyo with his friends for a 10-day trip. “Personally I haven’t been affected by it, but I don’t think it is reasonable,” Lam said. “China’s new Covid policy and its induced situation have also affected us, and Japan’s new arrangement is a one-size-fits-all approach.” Cathay has cut its planned flights to Japan by 20 percent to 65 trips per week next month, and will continue to fly to Sapporo in Hokkaido, a favourite skiing destination for city residents. Cathay’s budget carrier Hong Kong Express said it was cancelling 41 flights from the city to Japan next month, and would operate 60 trips per week. Hong Kong Airlines will continue its daily service between the city and Okinawa and operate a reduced schedule to Sapporo. Japan tells Cathay to halt flights to 3 destinations amid China Covid spike On Friday, South Korea joined the United States, Italy, Taiwan, and India in imposing testing on visitors from China, after Beijing’s decision last month to lift its stringent zero-Covid policies amid a surge in infections.