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Thursday, February 2, 2023

British Airways Crew Imprisoned in Hong Kong COVID Camp

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Despite being properly vaccinated and testing negative for COVID-19, a group of British Airways pilots and cabin workers have been held in a quarantine camp in Hong Kong since Saturday.

British Airways is collaborating with UK diplomats stationed in Hong Kong in a desperate attempt to gain their release and repatriation to the United Kingdom, but Hong Kong officials have shown no sign of caving.

After one of the pilots tested positive for COVID-19 immediately after arriving in Hong Kong, hazmat-suited security personnel hauled the group of aircrew away to the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine facility on Saturday.

The rest of the crew tested negative for COVID-19, but they were instantly classified as “close contacts” and condemned to a 21-day confinement in prison-like circumstances at the Penny’s Bay quarantine camp, which can accommodate almost 3,500 people.

Before flying to Hong Kong, every aircrew must be properly vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a negative test. Crew members are swabbed once more upon arrival and held in the airport until their test results are negative.

Even after double testing, crew members are usually transported to quarantine hotels for solitary confinement before flying home, which might take several days.

The situation at the Penny’s Bay camp, on the other hand, is significantly worse. Detainees are kept in cramped spartan rooms with minimal contemporary facilities, no functioning wi-fi, and only three meals each day.

Detainees have described being encircled by razor-wire fences with spotlights and security officials patrolling 24 hours a day. Detainees who are subjected to intrusive COVID-19 testing are given orders through loudspeakers.

Last week, more than 100 local Cathay Pacific airmen were categorized as “possible close contacts” and dispatched to Penny’s Bay, making international headlines. A Dutch Cathay Pacific pilot who was imprisoned in Penny’s Bay related her experience in the cramped quarters.

The pilot, who goes by the Instagram account @flywitheva, documented her horror at being met with two little beds with wafer-thin mattresses covered in plastic in a video posted to Instagram.

Since then, the pilot has updated her Instagram account to report that a group of volunteers has offered to provide emergency supplies to the British Airways crew still incarcerated at Penny’s Bay.

Although British Airways has not stated how many crew members are being arrested, the trip is now being flown by a Boeing 777-300, implying that at least ten cabin crew members and three to four pilots have been detained.

In a statement, a spokesperson for British Airways told us: “We’re supporting crew members who are currently isolating in Hong Kong. We work within local regulations for every country we fly to, and always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do.”

After criticizing the camp’s harsh conditions on social media last year, British Airways terminated a cabin crew member who was held there.

A group of nine Virgin Atlantic pilots and cabin crew were imprisoned at the same camp under very similar conditions earlier this month after only one pilot tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the city. After several days in custody, Virgin Atlantic was able to secure their release.

Several airlines have refused to fly nonstop routes to Hong Kong because the risk of their crews being detained is too great.

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