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Hong Kong fourth wave: Airline sector braces for impact as city mulls 14-day quarantine for aircrew amid Covid-19 pandemic

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is mulling plans to order all arriving aircrews to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks in response to a recent coronavirus outbreak, a move that would end a long-standing exemption and present the embattled aviation industry with a fresh crisis.

Cathay Pacific employees walk through Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong on Oct 21, 2020, after the flag carrier airline announced that 6,000 staff would lose their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cathay Pacific employees walk through Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong on Oct 21, 2020, after the flag carrier airline announced that 6,000 staff would lose their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is mulling plans to order all arriving aircrews to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks in response to a recent coronavirus outbreak, a move that would end a long-standing exemption and present the embattled aviation industry with a fresh crisis.

According to three sources familiar with the plan, the government is considering ordering pilots and cabin crew, including local staff, to quarantine in a hotel if they stay in Hong Kong for more than two hours.

Another source said the plan could “kill” the airline industry if it proceeds, while a separate insider said aircrew would also be subject to repeated testing.

Cathay Pacific Airways is understood to be pushing back hard against the proposal, but it is unclear what success it would have.

Aircrew are at greater risk of carrying the virus, despite wearing protective equipment, given they are interacting with passengers and flying abroad, yet they have been exempted from quarantine orders that apply to the general public.

All foreign aircrew are currently required to take designated transport to hotels, isolate in their rooms throughout their stay and pass a Covid-19 test before flying in. Local aircrew are tested on arrival in Hong Kong and have to stay in a hotel for 24 hours while waiting for their results.

Singapore has prioritised the aviation industry in offering the Covid-19 vaccine to airline workers first, meaning the city state’s national carrier could be the world’s first vaccinated airline.

Separately, airport workers in Hong Kong are set to become the latest group of residents required to undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing starting next month.

Airport chiefs held a hastily called meeting with airline representatives on Thursday morning as concerns have grown over the number of workers traced to various coronavirus clusters in the community, among other worries.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced on Wednesday it would suspend all long-haul flights from Friday, affecting 270 weekly trips, in response to tougher Covid-19 measures imposed by the Dutch government affecting the national carrier. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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Hong Kong aviation flight attendant Cathay Pacific

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