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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

This is Where Hundreds of Cathay Crews and Their Families Will Be Detained

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Hundreds of Cathay Pacific pilots and cabin staff, as well as some of their families, will be held against their will at Hong Kong’s horrific Penny’s Bay quarantine facility due to their misfortune of spending time in Frankfurt in recent weeks.

Some of the infected crew members were already in a ‘closed loop’ isolation period, but instead of finishing their quarantine in a hotel and returning to work, they were hauled away to a government-run quarantine camp that can hold thousands of people.

Cathay Pacific pilots and cabin workers were detained in large numbers when three of the airline’s cargo pilots tested positive for COVID-19 in fast succession after staying in the same layover hotel near Frankfurt, Germany.

Despite being shut up in their hotel rooms, the pilots became infected. According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, they told investigators that they did not leave their rooms during their layover and were not participating in any meetings.

With authorities still trying to figure out how the pilots became infected and whether other crew members were exposed to COVID-19 at the hotel, government officials said they decided to arrest every crew member who had stayed there since November 1 “for the sake of prudence.”

The majority of the crew members have been moved to the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre, a huge camp on Lantau Island with 3,500 tiny apartments designed just for them.

The camp, which is made up of container-like containers, houses the vast majority of Hong Kong’s government-run quarantine space and has recently been used to detain mistreated domestic employees.

All of the units are air-conditioned and give private accommodations, however, there is little space and the furnishings are modest. Wi-Fi is rarely available, and hot water isn’t always available, according to foreign pilots who have been detained at the camp.

A number of Virgin Atlantic crew members were detained at the facility earlier this month after a pilot tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Hong Kong.

The airline requested assistance from the British government, which was able to secure the crew’s release and return to the United Kingdom.

The release of five COVID negative Air Canada pilots and a FedEx Express pilot who were held at Penny’s Bay was aided by similar worldwide rescue attempts.

For the Cathay Pacific crew, there will be no such rescue.

A Dutch pilot who works for Cathay Pacific expressed his dissatisfaction with the accommodations in a series of Instagram pictures. Eva stated she was taken to the camp with only one little bag of possessions for the entire quarantine time, using only her first name.

However, not everyone has a negative opinion of the facilities. Claire Frost claimed the government did a “really good job” in an official promo video for Penny’s Bay.

“All the basic necessities were catered for. The three meals a day. If we needed extra toiletries we just rang them,” Frost, who was held at the center with her two children last year said. “It’s perfectly sufficient.”

Detainees are likely to be anxious when they first arrive, according to Dr Kong Che-wan, senior medical and health officer. Every day, workers at an onsite call center contact inmates to assess their requirements, and those confined at the facility can use Whatsapp to request extra snacks.

Cathay Pacific, on the other hand, acknowledged in an internal memo that the quarantine experience would be “extremely painful” for many crew members.

“I understand this is difficult news for us all to grasp and these recent cases are unfortunate for our crew community,” the memo read.

“This is indeed very difficult for everyone impacted. Our Service Excellence team has reached out to each crew member impacted with as much clarity as possible and we will continue to provide our support wherever needed”.

Crew members who were in Frankfurt when the quarantine order was signed will be flown back to Hong Kong and sent to Penny’s Bay or another government-run quarantine facility immediately, while those who were in Frankfurt but are now in another country will be ordered to isolate in their hotel rooms for 21 days.

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