HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong says it will ban all passenger flights from the U.K. starting Thursday as it seeks to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus.

It said in a statement Monday that the U.K. has been classified as “extremely high risk.“

Under the classification, people who have stayed in the U.K. for more than two hours will be restricted from boarding passenger flights to Hong Kong.

The statement said the flight ban was issued because of the “recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the U.K. and the widespread delta variant virus strain there.”

It is the second time that the Hong Kong government has banned flights from the U.K., following a restriction imposed last December.

The U.K. flight ban comes as Hong Kong is looking to relax quarantine measures for most other countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

Several other countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia, also face flight bans to Hong Kong.

The ban comes amid heightened tensions between the U.K. and China over semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which was a British colony until it was handed over to China in 1997.

The U.K. has criticized China for imposing a national security law on Hong Kong and tightening control over its media, saying Beijing is undermining the city’s autonomy.

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