Several Cathay Pacific pilots and cabin personnel have been placed in quarantine for a minimum of 21 days after three freighter pilots tested positive for COVID-19 in short succession after returning from layovers in Frankfurt.
Anyone who has been in Frankfurt since November 1 will be forced to enter a government-run quarantine center.
The three positive cases have generated concern because all three Covid positive pilots were in the community when the virus was diagnosed. Freighter pilots are generally exempt from Hong Kong’s strict quarantine laws.
Hong Kong has successfully implemented a so-called “Covid Zero” plan, and the imported cases have sparked widespread worry. In an attempt to avert a mass epidemic, authorities have ordered mass testing and targeted lockdowns, as well as the quarantine of dozens of households.
Because all three pilots spent time in Frankfurt, the focus has shifted to Cathay Pacific’s crew layover hotel, which is 9,125 kilometers away, as health officials try to prevent any further cases from being imported from the German city.
During international layovers, pilots and cabin crew are expected to self-isolate in their hotel rooms and avoid contact with locals. Crew members are not permitted to leave their rooms to exercise or shop, although they are permitted to have meals and groceries delivered to their rooms.
Although Germany is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections as vaccination rates lag behind other European countries and people begin to spend more time indoors as winter approaches, it is unclear how three pilots became infected in the same layover hotel in such a short period of time.
Cathay Pacific now offers two passenger flights and a handful of cargo-only trips to Frankfurt each week. All pilots and cabin personnel who have worked on flights to the city since November 1, regardless of whether they came into touch with the affected pilots, must now undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine.
Crew members who are still in Frankfurt, as well as anyone else who is considered a “close contact” and is already abroad, must now quarantine in a hotel for 21 days before returning to Hong Kong.
When they are permitted to return, they may be required to enter quarantine.
In an internal memo explaining the quarantine order, Cathay Pacific told staffers: “These recent cases are so unfortunate for our crew community and their family members after over 20 months of exemplary operating standards and compliance with the multitude of guidelines and regulations that have been introduced as a result of Covid-19.”
“This is not the way we wanted to end 2021 and it is important at this time that we support each other and stay strong,” the memo continued.
While there is no evidence that the newly afflicted pilots violated self-isolation guidelines during their layovers, Cathay Pacific announced on Friday that it will deploy security guards to the airline’s overseas stopover hotels to guarantee that crew members do not leave their rooms.
COVID-19 testing will be performed on the crew on a daily basis.
Cathay Pacific has been hampered by Hong Kong’s pandemic regulations, while the rest of the world is slowly recovering from the pandemic. Passenger capacity is down 87% from pre-pandemic levels, and the ailing airline stated in September that passenger numbers for the month were down 95% from the previous year.