To minimize the risks of spreading COVID-19, the Hong Kong government plans to impose strict quarantine rules and control measures for air crew.
On January 21, 2021, Hong Kong Minister of Health Sophie Chan Siu-chee confirmed that a 14-day quarantine rule is expected to be imposed on flight crews starting January 25, 2021. The quarantine will be imposed in a bid to contain a surge of COVID-19 infections across the city. The rule is set to be imposed on pilots and cabin crew that fly long-haul passenger and cargo flights. The crews would be required to quarantine in a hotel
“Under the premise of watertight measures and stringent prevention, we don’t have other alternatives,” Chan said in an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP). “Also, the virus is more active during winter and there have been more mutated strains, therefore, we hope to be more stringent. We are sorry about that.”
However, tightened quarantine rules could impact the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific the most, as the flag-carrier operates the largest amount of long-haul flights in and out of the city.
In a comment for AeroTime News, the spokesperson of Cathay Pacific said that the company is aware of the Hong Kong government’s intentions to tighten quarantine requirements for air crew.
“We are now seeking more implementation details, including timing, from the authorities, so that we can plan ahead to minimize the impact on our aircrew, as well as our passenger and cargo services,” in a comment to AeroTime News stated a Cathay Pacific spokesperson.
Currently, Hong Kong-based flight crew have to be tested upon arrival and wait for the results in a hotel for 24 hours.
Tightening rules across Asia-Pacific
While other Asia-Pacific countries have been closing borders and imposing travel restrictions, air crews have been also subject to stricter quarantine rules and fines for breaking them.
For example, to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection in Singapore, crews based there are barred from interacting with locals during layovers abroad. Other measures include health declaration forms and temperature checks before the flight. While interacting with passengers, cabin crew members have to wear goggles, gloves and on certain routes, they also wear protective gowns.
Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) and local airlines reached a consensus to tighten aircrew self-isolation rules on December 26, 2020. Under the quarantine policy, flight crews must undergo seven-day quarantine after they have entered the country. If a COVID-19 test is negative after the seven-day quarantine, the air crew are able to enter the community.
The stricter rules were imposed after EVA Air fired a New Zealand national who worked as a pilot, blaming him for the violation of pandemic prevention regulations on December 24, 2020. The pilot allegedly filed an untruthful health report after he contracted the virus. Taiwan’s government fined EVA Air $35,000 for the incident.
In Australia, all locally-based crews must take a test before leaving the airport and must quarantine until their next flight or for 14 days, if they have no scheduled flights during that period.